Restaurant Profile: MC Modern Asian Cuisine

The sashimi sampler platter includes salmon, bluefin tuna, octopus, hamachi (Japanese amberjack), ortoro (fatty tuna) and fluke.

As people have slowly resumed eating out this summer, one of Cary’s newest buzzworthy restaurants already has elevated the downtown dining scene. You can thank the culinary wizardry of chef and restauranteur Michael Chuong.

If Chuong’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he helmed the kitchen at erstwhile eatery Ān Cuisines in Cary, and he currently serves as the chef and owner of Elements Restaurant & Wine Bar in Chapel Hill.

Michael Chuong opened his latest restaurant in downtown Cary’s historic Jones House, known for its wrap-around front porch.

His latest venture, MC Modern Asian Cuisine, opened in February at the historic Jones House, which most recently housed the farm-to-table bistro Belle. The 2,200-square-foot Queen Anne-style cottage was originally constructed in 1896.

When it comes to overseeing two establishments, Chuong plans to take his latest challenge in stride.

“This place has my name on it,” he said, “so I need to take time to be present and work closely with staff to ensure we provide excellent food and service.”

A 36-year veteran chef, Chuong and his family fled Vietnam and went to a refugee camp in Singapore when he was 15 years old. The family ultimately relocated to New Orleans, where Chuong immersed himself in the culinary arts and worked in various prestigious hotels and restaurants. He moved to Cary in 1997 and accepted the role of executive chef at Prestonwood Country Club. Chuong honed his chops there for nearly 10 years before shifting to Ān in 2006.

The new restaurant is decidedly different from Chuong’s previous undertakings.

“The overall space is much smaller, more intimate and personal,” he said. “This is a fun and exciting project for me that’s been four years in the making.”

The restaurant’s focused, Asian-inspired menu features seasonal ingredients, fresh seafood and Instagram-worthy, artfully presented dishes.

Colossal prawns are served with candied walnuts, a spicy honey glaze, arugula, peppers, bean sprouts and Vietnamese nuoc cham sauce.

The main dining area, apportioned into several rooms, provides seating for about 75 guests. A charming wrap-around front porch offers guests a relaxing al fresco option. Dining at a table on the lawn is also enticing.

As for the interior decor, Chuong says he aimed to merge the house’s vintage elements with his own distinctive vision. Striking wood floors undergird traditional-style tables and chairs covered with amber-hued fabric. Walls are adorned with Eastern-influenced artwork and authentic Vietnamese instruments. Exquisite fresh flowers on each table are sourced from Raleigh’s Watered Garden Florist.

In a recent catch of the day, snapper was served with crawfish, brandy lobster sauce and steamed vegetables.

The restaurant’s menu changes weekly, giving Chuong the freedom to present guests with something different each time they come in. The chef also goes to great lengths to oblige diners with dietary restrictions.

“For example, the soy sauce we use is gluten-free,” he explained. “We understand the importance of making adjustments in the kitchen to accommodate our guests.”

The bar menu includes signature cocktails like the passion fruit mojito.

Small plates range from shrimp-, crabmeat- and quail-egg-suffused Vietnamese wedding soup to kimchi-laden braised pork belly. If it’s available when you visit, order the Hanoi calamari with arugula, sweet pepper slaw and roasted garlic aioli.

Sublime entrees include a popular catch of the day like snapper with crawfish tail, brandy lobster sauce; jumbo crab meat and fresh garlic ramen noodles; and Saigon braised beef short rib with roasted baby carrots.

Michael Chuong has decorated MC with Vietnamese musical instruments and Eastern-influenced artwork.

Colossal prawns crowned with candied walnuts, bean sprouts, spicy honey and a sweet-and-savory Vietnamese nuoc cham sauce are so good you will not want to share with anyone else. Trust us on this.

Prefer to savor some first-rate sushi? Try the sashimi sampler, which features an assortment of salmon, bluefin tuna, octopus, Hamachi, ortoro (fatty tuna), fluke and more.

A fixed-price chef’s-choice omakase experience involves a multi-course meal with sushi, wagyu steak and a nigiri sampler.

The detail-oriented Chuong purposely selected imported German ceramic dinnerware to showcase his creations.

“I like to have various shapes and sizes as cavasses to plate the food,” he said. “I also have a passion for cooking and love what I do, and I enjoy improving existing dishes and exploring new flavors every day.”

Pair your meal with any of approximately 100 red and white wines, most of which are available by the glass. A full bar offers craft cocktails like the signature passionfruit mojito as well as local beers.

MC Modern Asian Cuisine is open for dinner six days a week from Monday through Saturday, and lunch service will be added later this year. Reservations are available online and by phone and are strongly recommended on weekends.

Ramen noodles are turned upscale with jumbo lump crab, garlic butter sauce, miso, truffle oil, scallions and garlic chips.

324 South Academy St., Cary
(919) 650-1738

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