Who is Ken Ishibashi and why is he still Champaign-Urbana's best kept secret?
It's been a long time since I've had an omakase sushi experience and I have forgotten how special they are. Since I will be teaching a sushi making class this spring at the Common Ground Food Co-op, I thought it was high time to revisit this big-city experience. But this time, we didn't have to travel very far because Champaign-Urbana now has a sushi bar that specializes in offering a unique and informal prix fixe sushi feast that may be better than what you can get in a big cities like Chicago. The name of this unique local sushi joint is ISHI and it is run by Ken and Kaori Ishibashi, a husband-and-wife team of entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity and jumped right in.
Japan is well known for small mom-and-pop restaurants who focus on only one thing and strive for perfection in their chosen craft. It is in this tradition that Ken and Kaori opened ISHI and Kaori's Oven about a year ago. While other restaurants offer daily specials, Japanese sushi chefs like to offer truly unique custom-tailored meals designed just for to you. Instead of ordering off the menu, all you have to say to the sushi chef is "omakase" ("I leave it up to you"). At ISHI, you don't even have to say that because that is the only way Ken will serve you sushi -- his way. A few weeks ago, we went with friends who are big fans of Ken's omakase experience and are now regulars at ISHI. Want details? Read this review just published yesterday and this interview from February.