KoFusion serves up contemporary Asian cuisine, sushi

The streets of downtown Champaign, which are lined with eccentric and contemporary restaurants and cafes, have a quaint, college-town atmosphere. On Main Street, near the corner of Church and Neil, sits KoFusion, a contemporary American and Asian restaurant.

A distinct aroma occupies the popular sushi restaurant. The exotic yet familiar smell often sends people’s appetites into a sudden frenzy and draws them in, which is evident from the constant traffic of people entering and exiting the restaurant.

Sunday and Monday nights are the busiest of the week at KoFusion because of its extremely popular $1 sushi special, according to Head Chef Nigel Morgan.

“We have a really diverse customer base,” Morgan said, adding that customers vary from students and faculty to business groups. “Of course, with the dollar sushi we have a lot of students come in, but we also have a full kitchen menu, so we get all types of customers.”

Morgan, who has served as a chef at KoFusion since the restaurant opened seven years ago, credits the diversity in their customer base to the fact that KoFusion can entertain any type of event.

Whether it’s a business meeting, birthday party or just a night out for dinner, the restaurant’s style and menu is suitable for any occasion.

KoFusion is owned by Janet and Barry Bubin, who previously owned the sushi restaurant Miko in Urbana.

After selling Miko to another owner years ago, they took their expertise in the sushi and restaurant business to Champaign and opened Kofusion in the summer of 2005, Morgan said.

The restaurant has a full kitchen menu, but it is most notable for its excellent sushi. With a diverse assortment of sushi options, many customers’ preferred choices vary; however, there is one type of sushi that is the overwhelming favorite.

“I would say that the Big Roll across the board is by far the most popular,” Morgan said.

A mouth-wateringly delicious piece of sushi with a zingy taste, the Big Roll, according to Morgan, is a piece that is essentially a tempura fried roll wrapped in seaweed that contains rice, tamago, crabmeat, avocado and cream cheese.

But what makes the Big Roll so appealing to such a wide variety of customers? Morgan said that it is due to the Roll’s contemporary blend of American and Asian flavor.

“I think it appeals to people that aren’t necessarily familiar to sushi. It’s pretty mainstream in how it tastes,” Morgan said. “People like fried items ­— tamago is kind of sweet, and the combination of that with the crab and avocado is something that I think appeals to a lot of people.”

Although sushi is KoFusion’s signature item, one would not necessarily call it authentic.

“We do have some more authentic dishes, but the sushi here is certainly geared more toward American tastes,” Morgan said.

Sushi enthusiasts are notorious for being a bit elitist when it comes to the difference between “normal” sushi, which is considered mainstream, and “authentic” sushi, which is very different from American tastes.

“There are very few restaurants in this country that actually serve authentic sushi,” Morgan said. He said most sushi bars in Tokyo seat about 10 people and that making authentic sushi is a meticulous process. He also said sushi is an acquired taste.

But authenticity hardly matters when it comes to the quality of food KoFusion has to offer.

Whether it’s the highly sought-after Big Roll or a nonsushi item, there’s often a sea of people at the restaurant enjoying their KoFusion experience.

Saher can be reached at [email protected]