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Sushi for the Masses: Mio brings the dollar down on Japanese cuisine 

click to enlarge Mama Mio, affordable sushi in Bend? Bonzai!
  • Mama Mio, affordable sushi in Bend? Bonzai!
Mama Mio, affordable sushi in Bend? Bonzai!
When someone mentions sushi as an option, the dollar signs often start flashing in diners' minds. That's because the commonly held notion is that this Japanese culinary treat is expensive and not really that filling. Mio Sushi is trying to put an end to that perception and is doing so not with mini boats, conveyor belts or pre-made rolls, but with freshly made dishes ranging from traditional nigiri sushi to Americanized house rolls.

A welcome addition to Cascade Village Mall, Mio Sushi is located across from The Bungalow Tropical Bar and Grille and is the first of the Portland-based chain to open outside the Portland area. The interiors are very similar to the Portland locations-clean, cool colors, modern fixtures, an ample sushi bar and LOTS of staff yelling "irasshaimase" (please come in!) when you walk in the door.

We started out our meal with the kid-pleasing miso soup ($1.50) and edemame ($2.94). Slurping savory soup right out of the bowl and popping salt beans from the pod kept our two kindergarteners happy while we filled out our sushi order.

The best of the rolls was the huge Spider Roll ($6.95), which is full of crispy crab, crunchy cucumber, creamy avocado and sweet unagi sauce. The Double Crunch roll ($7.95) was also large, involved a lot of tempura, and was less like sushi and more like good pub food. Next we savored some Ama Ebi ($4.50-another great bargain) complete with the fried heads. Only two of us thought this raw shrimp accompanied by their crispy craniums were a treat, so the other two opted for the baked Green Lip Mussels, which had good flavor but had a bit too much "special mayo sauce" for my liking.

Next came the Ichi roll ($9.50) and the Dragon roll ($6.50). The Ichi was a fabulous eight-piece roll topped with thinly sliced shrimp and filled with crab, cucumber and a miso mustard sauce. The Dragon was pretty standard with the combination of spicy tuna, eel and avocado on the inside and sesame seeds and unagi sauce on the outside. Feeling we needed to up the vegetable content of our meal, we ordered a Goma Roll ($4.00) of cucumber, avocado, lettuce goma seaweed and crunchy little pieces of panko. With a bit of wasabi and soy, it was lovely.

While the kids dabbled in the sushi, we also ordered a steaming bowl of miso ramen with chicken ($6.50) to make sure the little ones' stomachs were filled. This was a fine bowl of noodles, although I couldn't help comparing it to the miso ramen at Sumi's Japanese restaurant, which is home to the best bowl of noodles this side of the Cascades.

It would have been nice to get a complementary pot of tea, but for the price this place rocks. For four adults and two kids we ordered five rolls, five orders of nigiri (two pieces), one miso soup, two orders of edemame and a bowl of miso ramen and we were stuffed. We filled what little room we had left in our stomachs with some excellent sake Hakutsura Sayuri ($9-a steal for non-retail) and a large Kirin beer ($7.00) and the grand total came to $77. No, it's not the kind of food you'll get at Kanpai or Sumi's or the experience you'll get at Deep, but it is good bang-for-your buck Japanese food.

Mio Sushi
63455 N Hwy 97 (in the Cascade Village Mall), 306-3486. Lunch: M-F 11:30-2:30, Sat-Sun 12-3. Dinner: M-Th 5:00-9:30, Fri-Sat 5-10, Sun 5-9


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