Koto Ramen brings authentic Japanese-style ramen to campustown


Koto Ramen employee, Calvin Law, serves a fresh bowl of ramen beside manager, Amy Chook.

By Jasmine Dinh

Campustown recently introduced one of its newest restaurants — Koto Ramen — this September. Located at 508 E. Green St. in Champaign, Koto Ramen serves Japanese-style ramen with a variety of twists.

The restaurant is open all week from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., except Fridays and Saturdays when it’s open until 10:30 p.m.

Owner Amy Chook comes from a family who’s been in the restaurant business for about 30 years.

The family owns restaurants in areas from St. Louis and Peoria to Canada, varying in styles which include Hibachi grills and buffet-style restaurants.

Though the interior is small, it’s professionally decorated by St. Louis designers.

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“We like this spot. It’s really close by and for our recipe — in other countries, they do it in campus towns — and it’s very popular,” she said.

Playful shadows are cast across the textured walls, wooden tables and booths. One of the most inviting aspects are the glass windows, which open the kitchen up for display.

The open windows provide customers a clear view of their food as it’s being prepared.

Chook said they got the idea of the windows from her family’s other restaurants, more specifically, the Hibachi grill’s style.

Koto Ramen is the family’s newest restaurant in Illinois, as well as one of the smallest.

“It’s small, but it’s easier to manage and it’s more inviting so we get closer to the customers,” Chook said.

The restaurant’s recipes are all homemade and have come from the family, which is based in southeast Asia, according to Chook.

“Every area has different tastes,” she said. “We get comments from everybody on if it is good or bad, and we adjust to students according to their tastes.”

The restaurant puts out a comment box to hear customer feedback, allowing customers to fill out forms with their thoughts about the ramen.

“I guess everyone has their own preference — myself included,” said Calvin Law, senior in LAS and restaurant cook. “They say negative things or positive things and it’s okay.”

Apart from matching the offerings to their customers’ preferences, Koto Ramen also puts high priority on customer specifications.

“You can always ask for what you want. We have different spice levels, because some like it spicy and some don’t like any spice at all,” Chook said.

The restaurant’s busiest hours are from noon to 2 p.m. and then 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., but the restaurant still runs smoothly.

“We make sure our customers don’t wait too long,” she said. “It’s like fast food service, but in a more comfortable setting.”

Jasmine can be reached at [email protected].