Mouthful

M Sushi chef to open chicken restaurant in downtown Durham

Chef Mike Lee, who owns Sono and M Sushi, plans to open a new chicken restaurant, M Kokko, in downtown Durham.
Chef Mike Lee, who owns Sono and M Sushi, plans to open a new chicken restaurant, M Kokko, in downtown Durham. jhknight@newsobserver.com

M Sushi’s chef and owner Michael Lee plans to open a new chicken restaurant in downtown Durham by mid-September.

M Kokko (the second word being Korean slang to refer to chickens) will share the same kitchen as Lee’s highly-rated sushi restaurant at 311 Holland Street but have a separate entrance. (Go HERE to read Greg Cox’s recent four-star review of M Sushi.)

The casual, quick-service 20-seat restaurant will offer five chicken dishes, explained Lee, who also owns Sono, a sushi restaurant in downtown Raleigh. M Kokko’s menu will include Korean fried chicken served two ways, regular and crispy with a garlic soy glaze; a chicken ramen noodle soup (Lee has been working on the broth for about three years); tonkatsu, a breaded fried chicken cutlet instead of pork; dandan noodles using ground chicken; and a chicken sandwich with Korean-style pickled radish and Korean fried chicken. Prices will range from $8-$12.

“It’s just stuff I like to eat on a daily basis,” Lee said.

M Kokko is possible because Lee said he had to rent a 4,600-square-foot space which was much larger than he wanted for his 55-seat sushi restaurant. Health rules required Lee to install a full kitchen even though most of the sushi restaurant’s preparations are raw. So he came up with the idea of having two restaurants using one kitchen. The bonus is it allows him to maintain control and not stretch himself too thin, Lee explained.

And Lee isn’t done with his restaurant plans in downtown Durham. By next spring, he hopes to open a Korean barbecue restaurant serving pork and beef. That restaurant will have a similar set up to M Sushi-M Kokko with a small taqueria also operating out of the same kitchen.

Weigl: 919-829-4848;

Twitter: @andreaweigl

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