How does a quintessential foodie deal with a two-hour train delay? I check out one of the spots I’ve been waiting to check out ever since I landed in the Triangle!
The last time I attempted to get into M Kokko, it was right before a show at the Carolina Theatre, the place was literally packed, and the wait was at least 25-30 minutes around 6PM. My friend and I were unable to wait it out given the tight timing, so I’ve been pining for some M Kokko deliciousness for months.
When the opportunity came around, I decided that it was meant to be. As I walked in the door to a narrow space with no more than eight tables, the day before the July 4th holiday, to a wonderful blast of air conditioning, I was thrilled to find that the restaurant was only a quarter full and I could be seated immediately.
I took a seat at a table by the window, admiring the exposed brick, the diverse clientele, and the ginormous blackboard wall displaying the menu for the day. The exposed brick gave the whole space a gritty industrial feel, but in a way that gave off the vibe that it was a place for the people — the people meaning the Asian family in the corner, the Black family on the side, the White group of friends by the kitchen, the young couple, and the solo diners like me and the gentleman behind me. Being from New York, this is what I love to see.
A few folks came in right after me, so I was worried that I wouldn’t get my order in before everyone else put in theirs. Thankfully, my server Jon took great care of me as a solo diner and made sure my spicy “KFC” (Korean fried chicken) wings ($12) didn’t get lost in the shuffle of the kitchen. Timing was critical, as the wall menu clearly noted that the wings take 17-20 minutes of cook time, and I definitely didn’t want to miss my train — full stomach or not.
In addition to the wings, the rest of the options looked fantastic. The variety of Asian dishes represented on the menu was incredible, ranging from somewhat more familiar ramen, udon, and bibimbap (which may still be unusual to some folks) to jjajang men (noodles in black bean sauce with minced pork) and vegan biang biang noodles. For the more fearful eaters, the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich looked as good passing by my table as it did as a drawing on the wall.
When my spicy wings finally showed up, I was ready for them. I say this all the time, but I really am a Korean fried chicken connoisseur — I love the twice fried quality of the chicken that makes it super crispy, and I love the spicy sauce that gives it an extra kick. M Kokko’s version lived up to all of my foodie expectations. Plus it came with two sides: cooked kale greens with pork belly (a delicious nod to Southern collard greens) and pickled daikon (light, white, and slightly acidic to cut through the other intense flavors).
I could’ve ended right there on a happy enough note, but I couldn’t resist Jon’s suggestion for dessert. So I went with the green tea tiramisu ($9), which I thought was a little pricey (after I looked at my check), but I loved the wonderfully airy quality of the cake, the cream, and the sesame crisps, so I’d honestly call the end a sweet success.
And in case it matters, I made my train!
311 Holland St b
Durham, NC 27701
Hoi Ning Ngai is the Associate Dean for Student Affairs at The Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill. She’s a recent transplant to the Triangle, a native of New York, and a lover of all things bacon, ice cream, and Paris. Follow her life adventures on Instagram at @hoiningngai!