M Pocha is now officially open in Durham. Offline hosted a sneak peek a couple of weeks ago, and the tickets were sold out in just thirty minutes! I’m so grateful to them for a personal invite to this anticipated preview. Chef Michael Lee adds M Pocha to his M Resturants empire, which currently includes M Kokko (listed in my noodle guide), M Sushi, and M Tempura. And he’s not done anytime soon with his brand expansion; he has four more concepts on the horizon.
Pocha is short for “pojanmacha” in Korean. The exact definition of Pojanmacha is “tented cart on wheels” These tented carts used to traditionally serve street food with drinks. However, the term now has evolved to mean a brick and mortar style restaurant that serve tapas-style dishes that is meant to be enjoyed over drinks. The menu is heavily influenced by Korean traditional fare but will also draw some inspiration from other cultures.
The first dishes we shared family-style were the Kimchi Soup (kimchi-jjigae) and the fried rice (pictured below). I used to order kimchi-jjigae when I frequently ate at Korean restaurants in Texas. Taking a sip of Chef Lee’s kimchi soup made me realized I haven’t indulged in Korean fare that often here in North Carolina, and this was the first sip of this popular stew in North Carolina! It was so comforting!
The fried rice was perfect with the battered fried shrimp. I know this is tapas-style dining, but I wish I could order a bucket of this fried rice as takeout and enjoy it on the couch in my undies.
Green Mango Salad isn’t usually found on Korean menus so this salad was a creative nod to other cultures. Asian savory mango salads always make me think of summer eats. I like the chili’s kick to balance the tang of the green mangos.
I like how Chef Lee does not shy away from fish sauce. It makes the Vietnamese girl in me happy! These fish sauce Brussels Sprouts were dusted with crispy shallots.
This was such a fun take on traditional Korean barbecue. In North Carolina, I haven’t stumbled on a lot of restaurants spaces with grills built into tables that I’ve grown to expect when I eat at Korean barbecue restaurants. M Pocha’s meat plate’s brick presentation feels like a creative compromise. These short ribs were SO tender and flavorful.
I think eating with your hands adds a level of enjoyment when you’re eating. These make-your-own steamed buns with spicy and tender pork belly were fun to assemble and even more fun to taste.
If I had to pick a favorite from my night with M Pocha, it’d be a tough call but I’d pick these bacon dumplings. It squirted some savory jus when bitten into.
And these dumplings conclude my delicious preview of M Pocha, now newly open! I’ve had the pleasure of dining at all of the other open M Restaurants, and I’m convinced that anything Chef Michael Lee does is golden.
I leave you with whimsical and wise advice from a sign posted at M Pocha.
101 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701
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