In recent years, there is only one Japanese restaurant that I want to dine at when I go to New York City. Though there are plenty of other options, I know that I will have a phenomenal meal, that the service will be excellent, and there will be some delicious Saké. Why change any of that?
Thus, when I made plans for my recent visit to NYC, I knew that I had to book a reservation at Megu. There are two locations of Megu in the city, though I have only been to their original location in Tribeca at 62 Thomas Street. Koji Imai, who has over thirty restaurants around the world, opened Megu in 2004. Now why doesn't he open one in Boston?
The restaurant has a lounge upstairs and the dining area itself is downstairs, though you can order some food in the lounge. The lounge is plain but comfortable with a rectangular bar in the center which is surrounded by tables, chairs and booths. Before dinner, we stopped here for a drink.
My wife had a "Megu Mule," a cocktail that includes shochu. (As I did not have my notebook with me, I have to rely on my memory so I don't have all the details of everything, including the other ingredients in this drink). It seemed mild with intriguing fruit flavors but I think it had a kick that you would not notice until later. So be careful of how many Mules you drink.
I ordered a small bottle of Saké but they were out of the brand I requested. Our server recommended another, the Kaetsu Saké, and I decided to try it. I was pleased that the server had not tried to upsell me. In fact, the Kaetsu was even less expensive, by almost $10, than the Saké I had originally ordered. I very much enjoyed the smooth flavor of the Kaetsu. After finishing our drinks, we walked down to the dining area.
As you enter the dining area you are greeted with a loud cheer of "Irrashimase," a Japanese word that means "welcome." It is a large restaurant and has a long sushi bar as well. The restaurant is stunning with an elegant Asian ambiance. There is a huge ice sculpture of Buddha, which is carved anew each day, as well as a large, engraved temple bell. It is very tastefully decorated and there is nothing hokey here.
Once seated, I began my exploration of their Saké menu, a multipage book with many different choices. After speaking with their Saké sommelier, I decided on the Maimon B Saké ($88), a Junmai Ginjo that is made exclusively for Megu. This was an excellent Saké, mellow with intriguing fruit flavors and a long finish. We actually ordered a second bottle later in the evening. Though I considered ordering a different Saké, just to try something else, we enjoyed this too much so had to get another one.
On my previous visits to Megu, I have ordered their tasting menus or omakase. Those were definitely very good choices, especially if you have never been to Megu before. You get a diverse selection of dishes and can taste a full range of what they have to offer. Be prepared for a lengthy meal as they do not rush you and you will have numerous courses. You won't want to rush the experience anyways. Just sit back and enjoy all of the delicious food.
On this visit, I decided to order off the menu, to create my own tasting menu. The menu is quite extensive and can seem intimidating at first. That is why a tasting menu or omakase may be your best option. I ordered a few items at a time, to space out the dinner and better gauge when we were full. We were not in any hurry and our server did not try to hurry us. We were there to savor some exceptional food and time was not an issue.
We began with Foie Gras Croquettes that contain Kobe beef. These golf-ball sized croquettes were perfectly crisp on the outside with a moist, silky interior. Foie gras and Kobe beef, you don't get two more mouth watering tastes. The Shrimp Cocktail had huge, fresh shrimp with a deightfully spicy cocktail sauce called Kanzuri. Kanzuri is a unque sauce of red chili peppers fermented in snow. The Shrimp Tempura, with some veggie tempura as well, was perfectly crisp and light. Long pieces of shrimp with a slightly sweet taste. Just perfect tempura. The Tatsuta Chicken, small pieces of fried chicken in a light ginger batter, were moist and flavorful.
Megu has a grill where they cook numerous different skewers, from beef to seafood. I selected several skewers, including the Kobe filet with Gorgonzola, the Silver Cod, the Ayu Sweet Fish and the Unagi. All of the skewers were delicious, whether the tender Kobe with the bit of the Gorgonzola or the sweet cod. The Ayu was the most unusual as it was a whole fish, formed into a "S" shape as if it were swimming. Such a cool visual. You just dug into the fish, extracting the bones and enjoying its sweet flesh. Presentation is very important in Megu and the dishes are usually very aestethically pleasing.
Next up was the Kagero Kobe beef skirt steak on a hot stone. Several slices of tender beef that actually cook upon the hot, black stone. The beef simply melts in your mouth and you actually get a good portion of meat. They have a few different cuts of Kobe that you can get on the hot stones and it is a dish I highly recommend. With this, we also had some Garlic Miso Toast. These small pieces of fresh, toasted bread were smeared with garlic/miso paste and were sweet with plenty of garlic flavor. These were so good, and seemed simple to make, so I am going to try to make these at home.
We finished our dinner with some sushi, which is a must order. They have incredibly fresh fish and they serve good-sized pieces. They also have real wasabi root that they grate upon your sushi. None of that fake wasabai paste here. Real wasabi is actually not that hot at all. We ordered the maguro akami (tuna), unagi (eel), maguro oh toro (fatty tuna), seared chu toro (medium fatty tuna), and a crunchy unagi garlic roll. All of it was excellent and I probably could have eaten much more. It is just so hard to resist.
For dessert, we split the Matcha Green Tea Crepe, with Matcha Rikyu Sauce and filled with a creamy matcha custard. This is actually a very light dessert so easy to eat after such a feast. It also is quite delicious with an intriguing green tea flavor.
Overall, the food was superb without a single complaint or misstep. There is no dish that I had that I would not recommend. Wonderful presentations with great blends of flavors. Service was exceptional, as usual. They are very accomodating, personable and attentive. The service and ambiance helps make Megu a top notch dining experience.
As for the prices, Megu is expensive though their prices are certainly comparable to other high-end Japanese restaurants. As you receive an exceptional meal, I wholeheartedly feel it is worth the price. I never feel that I do not get my money's worth when I dine here. If you enjoy Japanese food, then you definitely should check out Megu, even if only for a special occasion. I am positive that I will dine there again when I return to New York City.
Megu receives my highest recommendation!