Smile Politely

Sushi Kame is not just for sushi lovers

Sushi isn’t considered such an exotic food state-side anymore, is it? Yet for some it remains the final frontier of food. I’m a sushi-lover from way back; my husband, not so much. I believe he prefers to call it “bait.” So this is where we began our journey through Sushi Kame, a small Japanese restaurant in the heart of Champaign, right next to the Art Theatre. 


The overall aesthetic of Sushi Kame won’t blow you away. It’s not fancy, but the food is really good. The wait-staff was pleasant and helpful, answering my questions as best as they could. The waiter brought cool, lightly scented cloths to wipe your hands — a feature I rather enjoyed. I’m assuming in winter months, the cloths are warm.

This isn’t your typical American sushi fusion restaurant. It seems more authentic, as far as I can tell. We first ordered gyoza, a traditional Japanese dumpling. It was perfectly cooked, a nice savory filling of chicken, (there was a vegetarian option as well) and a crispy outer dumpling crust. Dipped in soy, it was a delicious bite.

Before our main meal came, we each received a bowl of miso soup. For the uninitiated, miso is a fermented soy bean paste soup base. The miso had a warm, flavorful broth. I felt it was a little skimpy on the tofu and seaweed, but it was still good. The waiter also brought a sunomono noodle salad, a Japanese sweet and sour vinegar mix. The noodle salad was cool and refreshing with a slight vinegar bite, mellowed by a bit of sweet.

My husband’s main course, yaki udon, arrived in a large, minimalist white bowl, looking and smelling good. It was a mix of vegetables, beef, udon noodles and a lightly sweet and savory brown sauce. We both enjoyed it very much.

My main course, sushi rolls, looked spectacular, dressed neatly by the in-house sushi chef. I had a spicy shrimp tempura roll, and several pieces of nigiri (raw fish and rice), hamachi (yellow fin) and white tuna. The hamachi was soft and buttery with just the right amount of wasabi and rice. The white tuna had a nice soft texture as well. The beauty of nigiri is the simplicity of the bite, a slice of fish, a smear of wasabi, and an arch of white rice, allowing for the pure pleasure of the subtle flavor of the fish to surprise you.

The shrimp tempura roll was bright and spicy, with the crispy crunch of tempura and perfectly cooked shrimp as well as a bit of some zucchini and cucumber. I’m somewhat of a sushi-purist. I tend to dip sparingly in soy sauce, choosing instead to enjoy the flavors that stand out all on their own. However, soy has its place. Dip a piece of nigiri in soy and the simple flavors are elevated.

I also ordered a crunch roll: smoked salmon, green beans, spicy sauce with a crunchy panko-crumb coating. This roll was so good. Plenty of flavors allowed for dipping in soy, the salty brine along with the crisp crunch of blanched green beans blended nicely with the smokiness of the salmon.

I understand that sushi isn’t for everyone, but many may still believe that all sushi is raw fish. Not so. There is plenty on offer that is cooked, and really tasty. If you are a sushi-virgin, I suggest starting with the more accessible Philadelphia roll: smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber; or the California roll: avocado, cooked crab meat, and cucumber. If you are feeling brave, give the nigiri a try, you might be surprised at how much you like it.

If you aren’t into sushi at all, there is a variety of food on the menu; salmon or chicken teriyaki in bento boxes or as an entrée, chicken katsu (chicken cutlets) or Tonkatsu (pork cutlets) in bento boxes or as an entrée, as well as a variety of salads and appetizers. Try not to get fooled by the name and give Sushi Kame a try.

Sushi Kame is located at 132 W Church St, Champaign, and is open Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.

All photos by Jessica Denhart. 

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