Durham, N.C. — If you love sushi you'll be as excited as I am about this pre-opening Q&A from a new sushi and seafood restaurant, M Sushi, set to open in downtown Durham (309 E. Chapel Hill St.) by Jan. 19
The chef and proprietor, Michael Lee, comes from Sono Sushi in Raleigh and is making the move to the Bull City at a time when foodies are hungry for new and exciting cuisine. Learn more below...
BBC: What other restaurants do you operate in the Triangle?
M SUSHI: Since 2007, I have also been the chef/partner at Sono Sushi in downtown Raleigh, and will continue to be through my opening of M Sushi in Durham. Sono has been a great experience and will always be my first "baby." With my awesome staff at Sono, and many veterans who have been with me since opening, I have total confidence in Sono as I put forth much of my efforts to establish M Sushi in Durham as active full-time chef/proprietor.
BBC: Why did you decide to open at this location in downtown Durham?
M SUSHI: We have accomplished much at Sono over the years, learning about a wide range of foods and ingredients, but I always wanted to see if a dedicated sushi/seafood restaurant could exist in the Triangle—one that allows us to create a system where we can narrow down our menu and offer very consistent quality at a very high level of execution—a restaurant that is more than just rolls and BOGO specials. We are striving to create a restaurant that offers exciting experiences to ALL customers who steps inside the door. For many reasons, including having eclectic and diverse foodies, Downtown Durham is the best possible location to try this concept at the perfect time.
BBC: What will set your restaurant apart from other sushi restaurants?
M SUSHI: First of all, the ingredients. When dealing with simple and minimal cuisine, such as sushi, quality of ingredients is very important. We will be receiving our ingredients from two primary sources: One that specializes in seasonal seafood from across the U.S., and the other which offers overnight shipments from Japan and Korea and also specializes in seasonal seafood. I want to have ingredients that people can really be excited about and other sushi restaurants can’t or won’t offer.
The second factor will be a small menu which will allow us to create super exciting yet simple dishes much more consistently. This will also make it simple and easy for diners to not worry about choosing what they should have and to concentrate on the experience. We will change and edit the menu daily as to keep it exciting and improve each day!
And the third quality will be drink pairings. I am a firm believer that proper wine/drink pairings with great food can create an experience much beyond that of just food alone. Proper drink pairings can turn a great dish into an amazing dish with different dimension of flavors that food alone might not be able to provide. We will have a very small wine/drink menu in which every one is dedicated to a certain dish and has a purpose on the menu. This is also for quality and ease of choosing for our diners.
BBC: Will there be special deals on sushi or nightly specials, etc.?
M SUSHI: As mentioned, I really want diners to try our dishes with specific drinks, so I'm tempted to offer half-price discounts on diners first dish in which we specifically pair with the drink they are having. This way, diners choose what they want to drink and we can encourage them to enjoy a properly paired food. It kind of reverses the idea.
Another thought I have is to offer free bites of items they haven’t tried before—like passing free hors d'oeuvres to prompt people to try something new for free!
BBC: What will the restaurant’s atmosphere be like?
M SUSHI: Simple and rustic. We are in a historical building that has lots of naturally beautiful wood, brick and old concrete. We are keeping the historical value of the building in tact and just accenting it with additional wood and textured metal that will give it a very natural yet rustic and comfortable feeling. The sushi bar, with 50 feet of natural wood counter from a local woodsmith, will be the focal point of the restaurant where the diners can see all the action very easily as we create their food. It is designed so that I am easily able to see and interact with all guests in the restaurant.
Amber Watson is the creator of the Durham-based food blog and websiteBites of Bull City, which is the perfect outlet for her background as a writer and her passion as a local foodie. Bites of Bull City is a place where area residents and visitors can go to get insider food news and keep up with Durham’s exciting and ever-expanding food scene.