Smile Politely

Kaiyo a surprising delight for buffet

Let me be clear: Kaiyo has the best sushi I have ever tasted. And speaking as a Chicago native, with access to extremely fresh fish, that is saying something.

The buffet is $17.95 which comes to just under $21.00 with a beverage. The sushi was amazingly fresh tasting. The owner says that it’s because the seafood is flown into Chicago then delivered to Champaign twice a week. The sushi is also prepared no more the thirty minutes before opening to ensure the freshest taste. They are working on getting their liquor license so they can offer a selection of wine, beer and sake.

And the restaurant is not done yet. The change I am most excited about though is the addition of hot and grilled items to the buffet. The pricing is more then fair considering the quality and variety. For the price of the buffet you can try many different rolls without worrying that you are going to waste money on a roll you don’t like.

And this “sushi” isn’t just California rolls. The choices include a large selection of maki including dragon rolls and spider rolls. They also had a good selection of sashimi, as well. My favorite was tuna sashimi with peppercorns. It’s served with a sauce that was good enough to make you cry.

I ate about 15 pieces — with only a few duplicates — and enjoyed every one. The worst I could say about the whole meal is that I like my spicy tuna a bit spicier.

Not feeling that I had adequately tasted enough, I returned to Kaiyo once more. On my second visit, I brought my husband along, who is admittedly not a big fan of Japanese food and won’t eat sushi at all. He ordered the beef stick appetizer and beef short ribs. We were both served a small bowl of miso and a salad. It had fresh lettuce, cucumber and tomato with ginger dressing.

The timing was good as a service restaurant. As soon as we finished it, the beef sticks were brought out. They were served medium rare as requested and tasted so good I had to steal one to try it since Husband didn’t want to share. The beef short ribs were served with fried rice on the side. They were good as well, but we both preferred the beef skewers. Husband wants to reassure those readers that don’t like sushi that they will also enjoy Kaiyo. I also want to note that the menu will be undergoing changes in the next few weeks so these dishes might change.

While I was there I raved about the quality of the buffet to the hostess Debra and mentioned that the only thing missing was octopus. Her response was to check to see if they had any so I could try it. When she found out they were out she offered to get something else to try off the menu.

The wait service was amazing as well. Our drinks were not allowed to get less then half empty before the waiter was offering a refill. They didn’t hover but they did ensure that we never waited for anything. When I went up for dessert, which was served on small plates, the waiter rushed up to help me carry them because I was having a hard time juggling the plates and my cane. He also made sure to offer me fresh fruit and plated it himself before carrying them to back to my table.

I want to make sure to mention the desserts because almost no Asian buffet have good desserts. Kaiyo’s selection of desserts is small but they are all delicious. I managed to try both the chocolate and the mango cake. My preference was the chocolate as it had hints of espresso in it.  The mango was a bit too sweet. My advice is to try and save a bit of room so you don’t miss out on the yumminess.

All in all it wasn’t just a meal — it was an experience and one that, for under $25, I will be repeating again soon. Now go eat there and spread the word so they have enough business to thrive.

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