Smile Politely

Korean fusion at an affordable price

More delicious food surprises were in store for me on campus last week, when I was able to try Spoon House. Spoon House is a very unique and modernized Korean restaurant, tucked away between Panera and Juno Hair on Green Street in Champaign. 

The interior of the restaurant is cleanly designed and very well-lit, which was rather welcoming. The menus are displayed electronically on monitors above the counter where you order. They also use a digital strip hanging on the ceiling to display order numbers as they are ready to be picked up by customers. The menu is in both English and Korean.

The menu supplied many choices, all of which sounded quite appetizing. A friend and I decided we would try the chicken bulgogi burrito with cilantro ($7.95), the sweet and spicy chicken bowl (9.95) and fried dumplings ($2.95). The burrito was among a few other Mexican/Tex-Mex style foods on the menu such as tacos and quesadillas. All of the food came on very simple yet stylish black plates in roughly 5 to 10 minutes. While we were waiting for the food we enjoyed a small cup of free kimchi. The kimchi, aside from being free, was rather tasty and had a perfect crunch with each bite, and was not spicy but sweet and tangy.

We first dove into the burrito, which looked as if it had been finished in some sort of sandwich press with an awesome browned and crisp finish on each side. Inside was the chicken which was marinated in a sweet and salty sauce, lettuce, and rice with a slice of lime served on the side. The chicken was shredded and incredibly moist while maintaining the sweet and salty flavors from its marinade. The sweet and salty from the chicken combined with the taste of the squeezed lime made for the perfect trio of flavors with each bite.

Next we tried the dumplings which came four to an order, served atop a bed of lettuce and with a soy-based dipping sauce. The dumplings were a dark golden color, very crispy, and tasted as if they had been fried in peanut oil. They were all packed with pork and cabbage filling. The almost nutty flavor from the peanut oil was surprisingly delicious with each bite — not that they survived many more than a few bites!

Finally, we went for the sweet and spicy chicken, it was served sizzling hot with hearty onion slices on a warm dish similar to what fajitas would be served on. The chicken pieces were large chunks of white meat, cooked in a sweet and spicy sauce that included plenty of red pepper flakes. The dish was perfect because it wasn’t too spicy but wasn’t too sweet, either. The chicken was served with a large bowl of steamed white rice.

One of the things I truly appreciate about Spoon House was the flawless execution of fusion Korean/Mexican style dishes. In my eyes that really shows creativity and skill by the chefs to prepare them so deliciously. A lot of Korean fusion food comes from high end restaurants with a much bigger price tag, also generally located in much larger cities. Spoon House has brought that same big city, hefty price fusion food to the University of Illinois campus with a much more laid back, yet stylish store front and a very affordable price.

The amount of food was just right for two people to enjoy and leave full, but not too full that you feel sick. The quality of the food was also very good; I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys good quality Korean food. I am already planning my next trip back so that I can try some more of the Korean fusion foods such as the tacos.

Spoon House is located at 616 East Green Street, Champaign, and open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 8 p.m.

All photos by Brian Plotner. 

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