“What’s Galentine’s Day?! Oh, it’s only the best day of the year!” Leslie Knope was right, you know. And what better way for me to celebrate this month’s installment of Date Night for $50 or less than to grab one of my best gals and head out for a night out on the town! 

We decided to try out the new M Sushi and Grill. Until very recently this establishment was known as Yori Q. On February 1st it re-opened with a new name and menu items that feature Japanese and Korean cuisine. I had never been while it was Yori Q, but I can say that I left M Sushi and Grill feeling very satisfied. From what I’ve seen looking through Facebook announcements, it seems that M Grill is still serving some Yori Q fan-favorite Korean entrées like hot plates, hot pots, and rice bowls. And just this last weekend, the soft opening menu has expanded even more in order to include sashimi, nigiri, and combos. I can’t wait to go back!

Upon our arrival we were warmly greeted and led to our table. The dining area is small but inviting and I enjoyed the cozy atmosphere. Our waitress asked for our drink order first and told us some of the Korean beers they had available. We both went with a Japanese beer we hadn’t tried before, Asahi Super Dry ($9). It’s a Japanese rice lager style beer. It was okay — nothing too special about it — but it was easy to sip on and didn’t overpower the food.

Everything on the menu sounded great so we asked our waitress for recommendations. She pointed out a handful of menu items that are already becoming fast favorites so, naturally, we decided to try them all. We ordered two starters (corn jeon $6.95, crunchy spicy tuna sushi $8.95) and two of the house special rolls which are all up to 50% off right now (BSC roll $7.95, hot night roll $7.95).

Everything came out at once along with a complimentary bowl of miso soup. We had no idea the corn jeon was going to be so big. It’s definitely a great appetizer to share with a group. It is a Korean style corn pancake that is both savory and sweet. The mixture isn’t completely pureed so the whole corn kernels give it a nice sweet crunch. It's pan fried, creating a wonderfully crisp outer layer and then drizzled with spicy mayo. The second appetizer, crunchy spicy tuna sushi, was a glorious fried concoction that’s unlike anything I’d had before. A little pad of rice is deep fried and then topped with spicy tuna, scallion, eel sauce, and spicy mayo (#spicymayoislife). Our roll was also topped with thin slices of jalapeño. It was hard to pick up with chopsticks as it kept falling apart, but it was so good it didn’t matter. (And to be fair, everything is hard for me to pick up with chopsticks.) The texture of the crispy rice with the spicy tuna mixture was delightful. And for those worried about spice, I’m on the low to medium end of spice loving fools and I didn’t find this too spicy at all.

When you do pay a visit to M Sushi and Grill, you have to try the BSC roll. The current discounted price certainly makes this amazing dish a steal. The presentation is mouthwatering. Baked bay scallops combined with mushrooms and herbs are generously spooned over a California roll. The simplicity of the California roll worked really well with the other flavors. Since it’s like the basic bitch of the sushi world it worked beautifully; just like toast points and tapenade. As for our other house specialty roll, who can pass up a name like “hot night roll?” It’s described on the menu as shrimp tempura and cucumber topped with spicy tuna, masago, green onion, and drizzled with eel sauce. For those of you who don’t know (myself included), masago is the roe (eggs) of a small fish known as capelin and is a member of the salmon family. It was tasty for sure, but wasn’t my favorite of the night. It had a great flavor but for me the proportion of the tuna/masago topping was a little much. There was a good spice, especially with the jalapeño (my date chose to remove the slice), and a good “fishy” flavor from the roe.

I will admit that I am usually a serial offender of the barbaric practice of dipping my sushi into wasabi and soy sauce, but it is important to note that for this meal I didn’t touch any of it. These rolls were so flavorful and perfectly balanced on their own. If anything, spicy lovers may just want to add some extra wasabi to each bite. My gal pal and I really enjoyed our meal here. We shared everything and split the bill down the middle. My individual total: $27.34 with tip. I think I may start leaving the hubby at home more often.

M Sushi and Grill is currently in its soft opening. With no word yet on when their grand opening will be I highly encourage you check out some of the dishes now while they are still 50% off. The most recent menu has been posted on their Facebook page

As our meal came to an end we realized we still had another very important decision to make: where do we go for our after dinner cocktails? Barrelhouse 34 is both one of our favorites and neither one of us had been there in a while, so Moscow mules at Barrelhouse it was. We were lucky enough to find two seats at the bar. I ordered the Kentucky Mule ($7 and made with Bulleit bourbon) and my date ordered the classic Moscow Mule ($7 and made with Tito’s vodka). I don’t think there’s a bad Mule on their list. I really like all of them. In order to have your Mule served in the classic copper mug, you’ll need to leave your I.D. with the bartender. Barrelhouse has a fun vibe and great décor. They’ve introduced Euchre night on Sundays (another great date night idea!) and they allow their patrons to bring in food since they don’t have a kitchen. It can get pretty loud in there but we were still able to have a great conversation and wanted to continue with another cocktail. I went with the Rye Old Fashioned ($8 and made with Bulleit rye) while my gal chose the Dark and Stormy ($7 made with Gosling’s dark rum). Both great choices. Since our drinks were comparable in price we chose to split the bill down the middle again and it was $15.50 plus tip. Grand total for the night: $42.84.

Just remember: hoes before bros, uteruses before duderuses, and ovaries before broveries. Happy Galentine’s Day!! 

M Sushi and Grill is located at 715 South Neil St, Suite A, Champaign and open Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m.; and Sunday 5 to 9:30 p.m.

Barrelhouse 34 is located at 34 East Main Street, Champaign and open Monday through Sunday 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.

All photos by Bobbie Bonebrake.