M Sushi is still one of our favorite new restaurants in Durham, so when we learned that the chef and owner, Michael Lee, had plans to open another restaurant on the premises, we were eager to get a taste of M Kokko.
Chef Lee is utilizing the full kitchen he had to build for M Sushi for the preparation and cooking of the dishes for his new restaurant. The kitchen connects the two spaces, so it’s very easy for staff to float in between and for Lee to effectively manage. Meanwhile, guests can enjoy intricate sushi on one side of the building and quick-service Korean chicken dishes on the other. The menu is small but mighty – Here’s a look at four out of the five M Kokko options. (The final option, “Dandan” Szechuan noodles is coming to the menu soon.)
The soy garlic fried chicken wings are an easy favorite. The crispy batter is sweetened with glaze and a little bit of chile gives it a subtle kick. The crunchy texture of the skin is deliciously different.
Durham now has a number of restaurants that serve steaming bowls of ramen, perfect for the colder months ahead, and now, you can add M Kokko to the list. The ramen bowl with soft boiled egg, bamboo shoot, wood ear mushroom, cilantro and chives is another instant favorite. The thin noodles were cooked to perfection and the smooth and spicy chicken based broth with chili oil gave great flavor to the thin slices of soy braised pork belly inside.
Just like at M Sushi, you can’t go wrong with the beautiful rice bowls. Flavorful chopped chicken thigh meat mixed with egg, bamboo shoots, crispy shallots, arugula, and pickled veggies.
You can even get your fix for a fried chicken sandwich at M Kokko. The light crunchy buttermilk batter encapsulates all the moisture and makes the chicken crispy on the outside and super juicy on the inside. A light garlic-based aioli and pickles on the bottom add to the flavor. Even the delicious ginger dressing on the small side salad is worth noting.
M Kokko had a soft opening Tuesday, September 27. The restaurant, which is accessible by a door directly around the corner from the M Sushi entrance, is small – only seating 20 at a time and there are no reservations. The menu will be on a large chalkboard wall and includes some of Chef Lee’s personal favorites, which will soon become yours too!
Photos: Tommie Watson Photography