C-U has never been lacking fresh seafood by way of sushi, but as the rise of the poke bowl — raw fish salad — took hold all over the US, I’d been holding out hope for our own taste of Hawai’i in Central Illinois. When Broadway Food Hall in Urbana announced their restaurant stall concept, including a stall named King Kuma dedicated to all things poke, I was ecstatic. My husband and I recently spent some time on Oahu where poke was a staple in our diet, so I was excited to see how Chef Shai Mauth’s take compared.

King Kuma’s poke is very approachable, especially if you’ve never had poke before. You build your own bowl with ingredients that you select yourself: a base of rice or greens, a variety of veggies and other toppings, sauces, extras (i.e. avocado) for an upcharge, and either tuna or tofu. The build-your-own-bowl is fabulous because you control your heat level, texture and crunch, and parameters based on dietary restrictions as they denote items containing gluten and vegetarian options. Ingredients are very fresh and well proportioned.

A friend and I each ordered a bowl made to our own specifications. I had a brown rice, tuna, edamame, shredded carrots, sweet corn, sesame seeds, wasabi, tempura flakes, and spicy mayo. The brown rice made for a wonderful vessel for the varied flavors and textures. The vegetables were crisp and fresh; the tempura flakes added a nice crunch. The spicy mayo was not especially spicy, so I’m happy that I also ordered the wasabi for the kick I was looking for. The only drawback I noticed was that the wasabi was placed on the bowl in one large chunk, rather than strewn throughout the bowl. I worry that someone who orders wasabi will eat it all in one bite and be very unhappy. The tuna was very fresh and delicate. I was pleased with the amount as well.

My friend also had a bowl, but rather than rice, he opted for greens as his base. He echoed my sentiments that the ingredients were well proportioned and high in quality. His only negative was that the greens were not dressed, so the bowl was a bit dry. He acquired some soy sauce from the counter which rectified the problem. He also had crispy onions and marinated ginger on his bowl, both of which contributed to the bold flavors.

Poke bowls start at $7.50, which we feel is a very fair price for high quality seafood in the middle of the cornfields. With a drink, lunch was just shy of $10. We both left feeling very satisfied, but not overly full, which is very important for patrons returning to work after lunch. The food hall concept is awesome because my friend and I were able to get poke but my husband wasn’t feeling it, so he got a pastrami sandwich and we all left happy.

Check out Broadway Food Hall’s Instagram featuring beautiful poke bowls and several other offerings. There are often cool events and specials at Broadway, so make sure to follow them on social media too!

King Kuma
Broadway Food Hall
401 N Broadway
Urbana
M-Th 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
F 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Photos by Jessica Wolff