New Korean restaurant opens on Neil Street

Hoon Kim is general manager of Yori Q. The Korean restaurant opened in the former location of Kamakura at 715 S. Neil St.

By Alicia Lee

Yori Q, a new Korean restaurant, has opened at 715 S. Neil St. in Champaign and strives to introduce Korean cuisine to people of all different nationalities.

The restaurant had its soft opening on July 7, and general manager Hoon Kim said it is doing better than he expected.

“It’s been more than what we expected, although it’s summer time and everybody’s gone,” Kim said. “We are using this summer time to train our employees and getting ready for the school year.”

Before opening Yori Q, Kim was working as a sales and marketing specialist at a trading and investing company. After a year, however, he quit his job and went into the restaurant business.

“Food explains the country’s culture the best. It’s really about how you eat things, how they prepare things,” Kim said. “As a Korean-American, I wanted to do something for Korea. That’s why I went into the restaurant business.”

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Yori Q is owned by Danny Oh and is the second restaurant of its kind. The first one is in West Lafayette, Indiana.

“That opened up this April, and because it was so successful, we were able to come down here and find an opportunity with this location,” Kim said.

However, the first restaurant, Yori, does not have a Q in its name because it does not have a barbecue grill section, which Yori Q does offer.

The restaurant will use the built-in hibachi grill from the previous restaurant that was in that location, Kamakura, to grill its Korean barbecue meats.

“Usually at a Korean barbecue, it’s a gas grill or electric grill that you cook on yourself,” Kim said. “But here, because we had such great equipment built in already, we’re taking advantage of it.”

The menu features many traditional Korean dishes such as hot pots, Korean barbecue, soups, noodles and more. But it also features some fusion items such as bulgogi sliders or kimchi fries.

“The only reason we added the fusion items on the shareables is to familiarize and introduce people to Korean flavors, to slowly take them into the culture of Korean food,” Kim said.

The restaurant’s head chef is Manja Shin, who used to be the head chef at a hotel in Los Angeles for Korean cuisine.

“Our chef is from the Gyeongsangdo region of Korea,” Kim said, adding that the Gyeongsangdo Province is known for its strong seasoning. “Her seasonings are very flavorful, which is more authentic than other restaurants in the Midwest.”

There are already a handful of Korean restaurants in the Champaign-Urbana area, but Yori Q strives to be different through its service.

“The taste is there, flavor is there, but the people would like it if they were serviced the right way. A lot of the times, they don’t know what they’re eating,” Kim said. “The explanation part is not good with most Korean restaurants. That’s something I’m enforcing on the servers. If there is someone who ordered bibimbap, some people just eat the vegetables first and then eat the rice at the end, when everything is actually supposed to be eaten together.”

Kim said the interior of the restaurant is a mix of traditional yet modern Korean elements. This can especially be seen in the restaurant’s private room, where a large mural of a traditional Korean female character is painted.

The restaurant will be adding a bubble tea and dessert bar named Bubble Bubble.

Mijung Lee, 22, a University student majoring in chemistry, works as a server at Yori Q.

“At our first employee meeting, our manager told us that our ultimate goal is to introduce all the Korean food to everyone that comes to our restaurant,” Lee said. “What I do is go talk to them, introduce the side dishes, and I always explain the food that is coming out on the table as well as how to eat it.”

Lee said she believes Korean food differs from other cuisines because of its complex flavors.

“Korean food is very delicate and complex,” she said. “It’s not just a simple flavor where you get the salt or sweet element, but all the different flavors are inside.”