Let me start off by saying that sushi =/= raw fish. Sushi refers to the rice, sashimi refers to raw fish. When eating at a sushi restaurant, the best place to look for vegan offerings is among the maki sushi, often times referred to as sushi rolls. I’m a sucker for veggie sushi, I really am. Luckily, I’ve discovered a couple of great options, one on campus and one in downtown Champaign.
First up, Sushi Rock, located on Green Street very near to the quad. They have the largest selection and lowest prices I’ve found yet. I’m head over heels for the veggie 911 roll, a super spicy delight. The ten dollar price tag may seem steep, but this roll is very large, and easily a meal on its own. The other rolls run about 5-7 dollars each, and are generally just variations containing some combination of avocado, carrots, cucumbers, asparagus, lettuce, and sweet potatoes, all of which I happen to like! My husband and I can usually grab a quick lunch and spend about $20-25 total.
Next, we have Sushi Kame, near the Art Theater in downtown Champaign. This place is more upscale than Sushi Rock, and the prices definitely reflect that fact. This is more of a “date night” destination for us, not only because of the prices, but also they have some amazing unfiltered sake! I can never remember the name of the one I like, but it comes in a pretty pink bottle, and it is served chilled. It’s cloudy (unfiltered) and a bit sweet. Anyway, enough about booze. I always get the seaweed salad. I understand that for many, seaweed it an acquired taste; my only comment: acquire this taste! Seaweed is super good for you, and I’m always impressed by the tangy flavor, unique texture, and striking shades of green (my terrible photography cannot do it justice).
Finding veggie rolls here can be a bit tricky. Their list of offerings is very large, and they are not organized. The Green Bell (cucumber, green bell pepper, lettuce, pickle, carrot, and avocado) is fantastic. The other two offerings, which were very tasty, are the Mai Mai roll and the Sweet Potato roll, although it didn’t occur to me until just now that the tempura veggies in these rolls are very likely fried in the same oil as shrimp tempura and the like.* Generally speaking, our tab, including the sake, runs about fifty dollars for the two of us.
*In truth, unless you are eating at an exclusively vegan restaurant, it is highly unlikely that there will be cooking equipment dedicated solely to the production of vegetarian food. In other words, there is always a chance of cross contamination when eating at omni restaurants. I’m still relatively new to veganism, and while some things may seem like obvious issues, I’m still learning many of the caveats of eating out in a (mostly) omni world. A couple of examples: I was told by my server at Ko Fusion that their soy sauce, which is prepared in-house, is NOT vegan. Just this past week, while visiting a friend in Peoria, we dined at a restaurant that had vegetarian icons on their menu, and while these dishes mostly contained cheese, there was the option to “substitute soy cheese” and even seasoned tofu. Well, we were first served the regular cheese and had to return the dish, and the soy cheese dish was just terrible. Later we found out that the soy cheese isn’t even vegan! Their website even boasts that they are vegan friendly. So, I’m interested to know, how do you readers feel about food prep in omni restaurants? How in-depth are your inquiries into hidden sources of animal products? Any other concerns?