Inside the Illini Union, students from all over campus gather together in groups, sitting at desks and tables or lounging on couches staring at their devices for hours on end. It might sound like a Pokémon Go get-together, and maybe this is one of the popular hubs to catch Geodude and Psyduck, but I think that phase is coming to an end now that classes have started and students are studying again. Of course all that studying uses energy, and what better way to restore energy than with food, which is why the Illini Union has an abundance of restaurants to satisfy the cravings of every individual.
At the beginning of this year, a new restaurant popped up on the lower level of the Union. It’s not new to the Urbana-Champaign area, but it’s finally in a location that’s convenient for students coming from every direction. KoFusion offers a variety of Asian-inspired cuisine, including stir fry, sushi, and kimchi. As a die-hard fan of sushi, I couldn’t resist getting my hands on a couple of the rolls. The menu gives customers several sushi roll options including house rolls, dollar sushi, and yo’ roll.
Sometimes, I like to keep things simple — like choosing spicy tuna over the Chicago roll, or going without makeup instead of spending 30 minutes in front of the mirror — but if you’re looking for something complex, the house rolls won’t disappoint. One of my favorites is the Firecracker Roll ($12.95), which includes spicy crab, spicy tuna, cucumber, jalapeño, sriracha, and spicy mayo sauce. There’s lots of heat and lots of flavor, certainly not for those with a low spice tolerance, but definitely recommended if you want something that’ll make your tongue tingle. The rest of the house rolls fall between $7.95 and $14.95, which is about the average range for sushi of this quality.
If you’re looking for something more cost effective, and I know a lot of students out there (myself included), who don’t mind saving a few dollars every now and then, I recommend trying the dollar sushi. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but each roll costs $1.00 and there are six items to choose from. I ended up getting four pieces of the Dynamite Roll and four pieces of the Big Roll. Similar to the Firecracker Roll, the Dynamite Roll packs a punch of flavor with a little bit of spiciness, fairly tame for me but probably much hotter for those with sensitive taste buds. I enjoyed this roll and liked the red peppers and onions that added crunchiness and freshness to balance the fishy flavor of the tuna. I’d give it a B+ because the peppers would have been better had they been replaced with something spicier.
Unlike the Dynamite Roll, the Big Roll did not have any spiciness, but I preferred the combination of flavors. There were more ingredients packed inside (hence the name) which resulted in me struggling to fit an entire roll in my mouth. I would not recommend ordering this if you’re on a first date, unless you want to look like a chipmunk. On KoFusion’s menu, the ingredients listed in this roll include crab, cream cheese, avocado, egg, sweet soy, spicy mayo, and black mushrooms. I would order that roll again. The outside is coated with a warm, crispy layer of tempura batter that cradles the soft, creamy, sweet interior. I think I might dream about this roll tonight.
The other sushi option, yo’ roll, allows people to customize their sushi exactly to their liking — $9 for eight pieces. Selections include one kind of protein, two fillings, one topping, a sauce, and extra add ons for $0.50 each. There’s even a veggie roll option. In addition to sushi, KoFusion offers “create a plate” where customers can choose their starch and pre-made item, including sweet and spicy chicken, pork and vegetables, and chicken curry for $8 or $9. And if you’re looking for something else extra, there are sides like vegetable dumplings, kimchi, seaweed salad, fried rice, and udon noodles. There’s nothing too unusual on KoFusion’s menu like nattō or sannakji, but maybe they’ll take things to another level in the future.
The seating provided is the same as the rest of the restaurants in the Illini Union basement: cafeteria-like setup with chairs packed closely together. For a weekday afternoon, it was incredibly busy, but the wait was less than ten minutes. I couldn’t find any seating in the basement, so I had to find a place outside, but it worked better because there was less of a crowd and more fresh air.
KoFusion falls into the pricier range of restaurants at the Union, but it adds to the selections available. Wendy’s and Einstein’s can get old after awhile and while I wish it wasn’t true, too many carbs make me feel sick. I like the lighter fare offered at KoFusion for those days when I had a heavy breakfast or simply need something to hold me over until my next meal.
KoFusion is located at 1401 W Green St, Urbana, on the lower level of the Illini Union. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
All photos by Madeleine Marsh.