Eats and Drinks, North Carolina

Durham Date Night: M Tempura

Hi, friends! I received a blog post request for date night ideas, and I thought it’d be fun to turn it into a series. There are quite a few places on Alex and I’s list (including Gocciolina, Cucciolo Osteria, and MC Restaurant) so I hope to share our experiences with you as we cross them off our list.

For the first post of the series, I am writing about our most recent date night at M Tempura, which was the last of the M Restaurants for us to try! If you are not yet familiar, there are four “M Restaurants” in downtown Durham: M Sushi, M Kokko, M Tempura, and M Pocha. While they all focus on Asian cuisine, the offerings vary quite a bit and so do the ambiances.

We had been talking about going to M Tempura since they opened, and it finally happened last month! We made a reservation on OpenTable a few weeks prior and were seated by our reservation time, which I appreciated. From their menu, we opted for the Traditional Style Omakase ($46) which is the most tempura-heavy option. FYI, everyone in your party needs to order the same Omaksase so everyone can be on the same course, logistics-wise.

Here’s everything we ate (*some tempura items are subject to change based on availability):

Traditional Omakase begins with a salad. It’s a sizable portion.

Is it bad if this salmon crudo was my favorite part of the entire meal?! This was delightful–refreshing and flavorful. I savored every bite.

This is the setup for the tempura courses–rice (bottom left), tempura sauce (top left), picked veggies, etc. You can season the tempura with the salt or use tempura sauce for dipping. There is ground daikon rd between the tempura sauce and the rice that you were encouraged to add to the tempura sauce for more savoriness. The little fish on the bottom right corner is a lemon squeezer!

Why do I look so scared?

For the tempuras, you get two kinds of tempura at a time. The tempura course began with the shrimps–you get one NC white shrimp and one soft-shell shrimp.

Next came the seabass and the shiitake mushrooms. Seabass came highly recommended by my IG friend Samuel (@charzhupork), and it’s wonderfully soft. I grew up eating lots of fried fish pancakes for Korean holidays, and the seabass tempura reminded me of those.

These are salmon and broccoli. I didn’t love the salmon as much as I wanted to. I definitely prefer the crudo texture but it might have been because the fried-ness of the tempura course was catching up to me at this point (and I was getting full too)!

Pictured here are asparagus and maitake mushrooms. I preferred the maitake mushrooms over the shiitake mushrooms. Maitake mushrooms are shaped like trees with lots of branches so I found them to be very crunchy without holding extra oil/batter.

Looking back at these photos, this “round” of tempuras might have been my favorite–sweet potatoes and scallops. My mom makes fried sweet potatoes sometimes, and if you haven’t had them fried yet, they are so dang good. The scallops were pretty amazing too.

Because this is a fancy meal, you get sherbet as a palate cleanser! It was tart and citrusy.

Time for meal #2! Just kidding. Post-tempura, you get a pick between soba (bottom) or udon noodle soup (top) so we tried both. These are not quite full size but more than half-size? All I am saying is that you will not be hungry when you leave.

Ended the omakase with some dessert! We had ginger ice cream topped with crystallized ginger pieces.

The Traditional Omakase took about 2.5 hours for us to go through since they bring out the different courses as they are ready. We were surprised at how much time we spent at dinner but it really made the evening feel like an outing. I also appreciated that we left completely stuffed! The omakase is quite a lot of food, and I am sure the spacing out between each dish helped.

While we enjoyed the Traditional Omakase, we would probably try the “M” Omakase which is lighter on tempura and heavier on fish. Many of their entree items are reasonably priced and sound intriguing–I am eyeing the Cheese Stuffed Pork Katsu and the Truffle Shio Ramen.

Never before seen photo of Alex with beer

Cheers to a successful date night!

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