Sunday, October 26, 2008

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Radio Maria

00:00 - Radio Maria - Kicking it off

We start our adventure at Radio Maria, the offbeat creation of artists David Spears and Sharon Owens. For over 10 years Radio Maria has stretched the imagination of diners and art lover alike with their innovative food (wonderful tapas) and decor....or so the reviews say. Tonight we'll see if this Champaign hotspot lives up to its hype. A link to the takeout menu is provided below. My first thought on entering Radio Maria was "I hope Mike made reservations, because this place is packed." We managed to find an open table, and sat down. The service was good, within 5 minutes of seating ourselves we were asked for our drink order.
We decided to order the arancini ($5) which peaked my interest because it consists of a "rice ball rolled in panko, filled with Mozzarella and Topped with a Spicy Tomato Sauce" I think it's bizarre to couple rice with a tomato sauce and cheese, but decided to try it. Mike ordered the Chili-lime shrimp ($7) which was spicy shrimp with garlic and seasonal vegetables. He also decided to kick off the night with a Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat beer.

My first thought on entering Radio Maria was "I hope tapas are small, because I'm not even that hungry right now." The steak and shake I had for late lunch is still somehow with me. I was impressed that my beer came in 3 minutes, and even though it came in a warm glass, it tasted great. I tend to like unfiltered beers, though I usually need to add a lime, but this one already had hints of citrus in it.

It’s funny, I enjoyed the shrimp dish much better than the arancini (which came highly regarded by the waitress). But as Mike says, “That’s what you get for ordering something that you thought was bizarre in the first place.” Point taken. Anyways, the rice in the arancini was actually a risotto-type rice. Contrary to my initial statement, I take it back, yes, risotto is one of the exceptions in which rice is served with cheese.
I do wish I had ordered the fried goat cheese tapas, but oh well.
I liked both dishes. The panko rice balls were very crispy on the outside, and gooey inside. The risotto was mildly cheesy, and would have needed more, but was offset by the marinara sauce they were served in which was extremely spicy, and even Lauren admitted it had flavor. The chili-lime shrimp tasted like something you’d eat over pasta at an Italian restaurant, and was tasty but not very impressive. All in all, Lauren and I had differing opinions, but we are both excited to have started our culinary adventure. If we come back, I want to try the goat cheese, I hear it’s great!
$19 spent including tax and tip
Total - $19

Radio Maria (menu)
119 N. Walnut St. Champaign, IL 61820

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