In the heart of Tribeca you will find the revolutionary new age Megu Restaurant that specialises in modern Japanese sushi and sumibi aburiyaki, a grilling technique using bincho-tan, a special charcoal found only near Kyoto and prized for its superior purifying qualities. In their modern approach to the ancient ideal of an extraordinary food experience, they identify no borders, only the centuries of invention devoted to this quest. Megu’s dining area’s centrepiece is a signature ice Buddha sculpture, elevated over a pool of water that is rebuilt every night to ensure diners of a spiritual and purifying experience.
Let me take you on a Japanese culinary voyage….
Unlike many Asian eateries, Megu has no executive chef. Instead they have a selected team of chefs who work meticulously to provide a sophisticated organic dining experience, ensuring that every ingredient is showcased as the star of the night. The menu is a bit of a maze, filled with signature Megu items and various other kinds of Japanese offerings. The food is a tad gimmicky, but that being said, it is extremely tasteful and in a sense a little playful. Simple elegance, with a touch of modern inventiveness.
To avoid all confusion, we opted for the Umami set menu consisting of a very impressive seven course meal. Umami can be described as a “pleasant savoury taste” and is said to mean delicious or yummy and often referred to as the fifth sense. A food has umami when it has become all that it can be, when it is at its peak of quality and fulfilment. I believe that the staff at Megu has perfected the art of pursuing the perfect culinary creation – travelling to the ends of earth for the finest ingredients nature has cultivated for your unadulterated pleasure.
The restaurant has an extensive wine collection with over 600 bottles on offer. Our wine option for the night was a bottle of Lioca Chardonnay 2010 from the Hanzell Vineyard in Sonoma Valley. The name Lioca stems from the surnames of the winery’s founders: Licklider and O’Connor. Their brand specialises in steel tank-fermented Chardonnay as well as Pinot Noir and a Carignan-based blend. The particular wine we enjoyed was light gold in colour with exotic notes of pineapple, lemon blossom and papaya. Very enjoyable, especially with the seafood.
Our first dish of the night was the “Salmon Tartare with Osetra Caviar”. The presentation was truly amazing with the salmon infused at our table with hot charcoal ensuring the lemon flavour blended perfectly with the puree. What makes this dish quite exquisite is the Osetra caviar which hails from Russia. That said, you either love or hate the idea of eating caviar. For caviar novices, this is one of the most prized and expensive types of caviar, pipped at the post of most expensive only by Beluga caviar. The taste is fresh, fruity, a little buttery and utterly delectable.
The third treat of the evening was the “Five Kinds of Sashimi” served in a beautifully crafted ice igloo. This was my first time eating the delicacy of sea urchin, also known as the hedgehogs of the sea. Opinions are rather mixed on whether sea urchins taste good or not. Some people describe the taste as a dirty sponge that was used to clean the bottom of the ocean, so this one I will leave up to you to test. In my opinion, they are rich and creamy with a light nutty flavour and a slight sweetness similar to raw scallops. Complementing the sushi dish was freshly grated wasabi directly from the root. This is apparently quite rare and a tradition at Megu.
Next to tantalise our taste buds was the extravagantly rich Foie Gras “Chawanmushi” a la Rossini with Black Truffle. Chawanmushi, literally “tea cup steam”, is a Japanese savoury egg custard that is sublimely creamy but also complex due to the touch of foie gras. (Foie gras is French for fat liver - normally duck or goose, which is considered a luxury by most). Those that have read my previous blogs know my opinion on truffles. This no exception – truly spectacular!
Our first meat dish for the evening was the “Kobe Beef Carpaccio with Fresh Basil“ presented flat and round like a tart, but extremely thinly sliced and rather refreshing. This was followed with the “Grilled King Crab with Lemon Soy Butter” which was beautifully presented on hot coals.
Next up was the signature appetiser of “Crispy Okaki Asparagus and Baked Unagi” with spicy baked teriyaki and mayo eel. This vibrant green hue isn’t smothered in a hollandaise sauce or dipped in dressing, but slightly fried with a mouth-watering combination of Japanese spices. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that good food can be dug up from the veggie patch!
Before starting the full-sushi course we refreshed with a delicious lemon and lime sorbet palate cleanser. The Megu Sushi with Akadashi is a five-piece sushi selection featuring tuna and eel accompanied by sea urchin and truffles. The sushi is presented with akadashi which is a mega red miso soup consisting of mushroom and miso. Truly marvellous.
Our main meat dish for the night was the American “Kobe Sirloin Kagero Steak” flambéed at the table. The beef was cooked to perfection, medium rare, using the grilling technique using bincho-tan. It was cut into thin perfect slices sitting on top of a large hot stone, found only near Kyoto region of Japan. The stone maintains its heat throughout the meal and is used for its purifying properties. The meat was complimented with a delicious smooth garlic soy sauce that just melts in your mouth. Some of the best meat I have ever tasted.
Our meal ended with the “Sweet Five” – a delicious assortment of slices of gourmet pies, cake and fruits including chocolate fondant, chocolate truffle, crème brûlée, vanilla ice-cream and the famous green tree 24-layer crepe cake.
But be warned, you'll pay top dollar for the privilege of enjoying this culinary extravaganza. Expensive or not, just about everything is worth lingering over. You must visit this restaurant when you have time to relax (rather than being jet lagged like we were) as the courses take a while to be prepared. That said, the food was meticulously prepared with the utmost respect for each ingredient.
It didn't just taste good, this was a Japanese epiphany and the best I have ever tasted. As the word Megu means “Blessing”, I certainly felt blessed to have been part of this magnificent dining experience.