Did We Go Ga-Ga At Megu?

November 10, 2005 | By | COMMENTS

Ok, enough with the excitement–redesign and book deals be damned–we need to get back to our roots: my name is Kunta Kinte. I take pictures of my food.

I had lunch last week with a professor who told me that if my mom likes trendy and my dad likes red meat, we must make our way to TriBeCa and dine at Megu. “They cook kobe beef on a lava rock,” he said, “your dad will love it.” So, because they were here this weekend for a wedding, a reservation was made for Friday night. My brother, who was staying with me, and I made our way down by subway. It took 10 minutes. Mom and dad took a cab and it took 45 minutes. I love the subway.

So here’s the evocative exterior:

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Since I get complaints that all these pictures make the site hard to load, to read the rest of this review: click below.

Ah you clicked below! Well done!

Where were we? Ah yes: Megu. Once inside, it’s like entering a secret fortress. You walk up a flight of stairs, you walk down a flight of stairs. There’s a solid red bar, a glass room overlooking the main dining room and then the main dining room downstairs.

In that main dining room is this ginormous thing hanging from the ceiling–it looks like a huge bell without the little thing that’d make it go “ding”–and below it an ice Buddha. Here’s the room in blurry night mode:

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And here’s the ice Buddha up close:

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People ladeled water on it for good luck or to be blessed or because the ice Buddha’s hair was dirty. I didn’t participate but I admire those who did.

We were seated near the front and mom wasn’t too happy with that. “I don’t feel like we’re in the restaurant,” she said and I saw her point. But it was too bad because all the other tables were taken and we were hungry.

Our waiter was very efficient: he reminded me of my Civil Procedure teacher in law school. He had a crisp way about him, very formal and very–dare I say?–Ayran. I felt like if the White Race needed to be propogated, he’d be your man.

We started by ordering drinks. I wanted to try something Megu-specific so I had a saki drink called the Honeycrisp or Honeycrsip Sakitini (did I make that up) which was basically Saki, honeycrisp apple pure and peach pure. Michael followed suit and he hated his. I liked mine. Here it is:

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I’d never had saki in a blended drink like this and I think it worked, but it was a little unusual.

When it came to the menu, I felt like I was taking my AP Calculus exam without a graphing caluclator. You can get a sense of the complications involved here at menupages. What a mind-numbing menu!

Luckily (or perhaps shrewdly) the waiter offers to devise a dinner for you. It’s called, I think, the omikase menu. Meaning: the waiter spikes up the bill after consulting your preferences.

“Are you allergic to anything?” he asked.

“Penicillin,” my mom joked.

He stared her down and she withered in her seat.

The waiter suggested we start with the famous “Crispy Green Asparagus with Okaki Batter Fry”:

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We all really liked this. I mean: how could you not? Battered and fried asparagus with a squeeze of lemon. It’s a crowd pleaser.

Next up was sushi. We ordered spicy tuna rolls and shrimp tempura rolls:

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Mom and Michael said it was only as good as the sushi they get in Boca at their favorite sushi place. I thought it was better-than-average sushi: incredibly fresh, and really well made.

Plus, and this was a high-point for me, a faceless man comes by and grates fresh wasabi for you on a wasabi scraper:

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Ok, the man is faceless because even though he posed for the picture I didn’t tell him it was going up on the web and I wouldn’t want him to come out of the woodwork and be like “you stole my image! and my wasabi! take it down!”

But what was cool about this wasabi experience is that it may have been the first real wasabi I’ve ever eaten. Most wasabi we eat at sushi restaurants is a combination of horseradish, food coloring, and lies. This was the real thing and I liked it’s authentic flavor.

The waiter also suggested we try salmon sashimi and a famous tuna Toro (maybe?) roll that comes from a special part of the tuna and “evaporates in your mouth,” according to the waiter:

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With all the hype, the special tuna rolls were a little disappointing but still enjoyable. And again I thought the sushi was superfresh.

Next up was a shrimp dish that tasted a drop like General Tso’s:

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Even though this dish was interesting and flavorful, I thought it was the least successful of the meal: the batter wasn’t crispy enough and it tasted too much like normal Chinese take-out.

But then came the big showpieces. As I mentioned above, my professor recommended this place because they cook kobe beef on a lava rock. Well here it is at our table, all aflame:

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It was a very dramatic presentation. I asked the waiter if anyone had ever been injured and he was kind of evasive. Carrying hot lava rocks around a busy restaurant is a dangerous proposition.

Along with the lava rock came this salmon dish:

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“Toro Salmon Grill in an Iron Pan Chan Chan.” It’s essentially salmon and cabbage and a creamy tangy sauce all mushed up together (the waiter did the mushing.) “It’s like salmon salad,” said dad, neither enthusiastically nor critically. I liked the zing of it but salmon, no matter how well prepared, usually leaves me pretty bored.

But then there was the beef on the rock:

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Those chips on top are garlic chips. There are garlic chips underneath it too. The beef, obviously, was very tender and tasty. I wondered how important the cooking it on a lava rock was: did the end justify the means? Or was it all for show?

That’s actually the larger question that looms over Megu. Is this place serving great food or just making gestures that suggest they’re serving great food?

Perhaps some illumination comes at the end of our meal. Michael was actually still hungry so he ordered another round of sushi. (None of us were particularly full.)

For dessert we placed two orders: Yuzu Chocolate (“Rich silky chocolate finished with the flavor of Yuzu”) and “Fresh Fruit Fantasy.” Originally we were going to order the “Ogura Azuki Fondant Chocolate” but we were told it’d take 15 minutes and it was late and we were tired and didn’t want to wait that long. This was at 10:55.

At 11:15, there was still no dessert. We called over our waiter.

“Where’s the dessert?” we asked.

“Oh,” he explained, “they’re still slicing the fruit for your fruit fantasy. There are over 30 fruits involved and they’re all individually sliced.”

“Well can we have the other dessert first?” we asked.

He shot us a look and then returned with the Chocolate Yuzu cake:

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It was very tasty, but not to die for. And we finished it around 11:23 or 24 or at least 10 minutes later. And still no fruit.

“Maybe we should get our check first so when the fruit comes we can leave,” I suggested. Our asses were killing us: we’d been sitting since 8:30.

So we asked the waiter for the check. He left and brought it back and we paid and then asked if the fruit was still being prepared.

“Oh,” he said, “I thought when you asked for the check you were cancelling the fruit.”

After all that build-up we never got our fruit fantasy. But we did get to leave.

In conclusion, I’m glad that my teacher suggested Megu because it’s truly an experience: the environment, the presentation, the atmosphere are all worth checking out. The food, while interesting, is not extraordinary and if you don’t have money to throw around, I’d direct your energies elsewhere. You can always ladel water on the ice sculpture Buddha at your local sushi bar. When you ask for the ladel and the location of the ice sculpture Buddha, ignore the suspect glances. They’re just testing you.

Categories: Manhattan, New York, Restaurant Reviews, Tribeca

  • http://aru278.wordpress.com/ aru

    hi, i’ve been reading your blog for a while now and really enjoy it. good job with the new design and book deal!

    i was wondering if u could possibly give readers an idea of the price of the meals/menus you eat in your reviews. or do u not include this detail on purpose??

  • P

    The new design makes it much easier to load the page – great! The sushi up there looks nice and fresh … but just a question: what is ‘saki’? do you mean ‘sake’? ^^..

  • http://www.thefootie.com Martha

    Omakase is a word that basically means “the chef’s choice.” It’s very common in good sushi restaurants, where the understanding is that the chef will give you whatever he/she thinks is best and freshest that day.

    Also, it’s hilarious that you were still hungry – I was looking at those pictures thinking “How on EARTH did you eat all that?!” But then I guess the camera does put on 15 pounds.

  • http://www.skatandthefood.blogspot.com s’kat

    I hate going out to a nice restaurant, paying a hefty bill, then having to get a pizza on the way home.

  • rooney

    For some reason, since the re-design, my page does not include the banner. I assume there is a banner, or does re-design mean delete design? Your longtime fan, rooney

  • Alisa

    Laughed while reading! Your writing just gets better.

  • mike

    I’m loving the redesign! The site used to load super slow for me, but not anymore.

  • http://fragmentsofself.com Heather

    Excellent post. That cake looked good.

  • yo

    really enjoy reading your blog. hate to bring this up, but i think “ladel” is spelled “ladle”.

  • http://www.thedailykirk.blogs.com The Daily Kirk

    Hey there P, Saki is a totally accepted alternative spelling of sake. In fact it makes more sense within the established rules of English spelling, so even though it is not the primary spelling, it is arguably a preferred spelling. That’s what he was talking about when he said Saki. I am afraid yo is right on ladle however. But if he hates to bring it up, maybe he shouldn’t.

  • Nina

    Ah, I’m so jealous! The dorm food is really starting to get to me.. everything tastes like chicken with a side of chicken. These pictures make it all up though. Thank you for a reprieve!

  • http://grabyourfork.blogspot.com Augustusgloop

    Wow. Talk about drama-infused dining. I’m surprised there were no flame throwers involved in the serving of your entrees =)

    And toro refers to the fatty belly of tuna – extremely prized by Japanese for its fatty rich goodness.

  • http://stalkingthewaiter.blogspot.com B’gina

    “I asked the waiter if anyone had ever been injured and he was kind of evasive. Carrying hot lava rocks around a busy restaurant is a dangerous proposition.”

    There used to be a restaurant in New Orleans where everything was cooked at your table…with a blow torch! LOL! I asked the owner if his insurance rates weren’t outrageously high. He just gave me a dirty look. Can you imagine six or eight waiters running around with lit blow torches??? Lava rocks seem tame by comparison.

  • Bayushi

    Congratulations on the book!

    But by the way, kobe beef? Even the lousy cuts are among the tenderest, tastiest pieces of beef I’ve ever had. (There’s a Japanese supermarket in downtown Seattle called Uwajimaya that sells it, raw.)

  • Jane

    “Most wasabi we eat at sushi restaurants is a combination of horseradish, food coloring, and lies.” HA!

    Aru, AG provides a link in the review which will take you to Megu’s menu so you can see the prices.

  • http://mewing.net/johanna Johanna

    Hey, what’s your parents’ favorite sushi place in Boca? I’m visiting mine there for winter break, and would love some yummy suggestions.

  • http://www.obsessionwithfood.com Derrick Schneider

    I’m a big fan of fresh wasabi, and I find it unfortunate that the fake stuff has been foisted on us so long. You can buy fresh wasabi from Pacific Farms in OR (www.freshwasabi.com), though last time I checked, their quantities were awfully large.

  • http://xxxocolate.blogspot.com Filipe

    It was very nice to read your review on the “Megu Experience” you’ve had. I’ve had a similar one last June, while in New York.

    The place is really very eyefull, but confortable and very cosy indeed (at least I’ve felt that way)

    As I am not into sushi I’ve also tried other dishes, such as the kobe beef and some sort of grilled chicken which was REALLY NICE. Can’t remember the whole name of it neither the spices which it was cooked.

    My friend tried the sushi and he told me it was not to die for but it was very fresh.

    I don’t share your opinion about the Yuzu chocolate cake – I had never tried yuzu, and the mix between both flavours was simply gorgeous. We had 3 slices the two of us, plus another desert my friend had had before.

    About the prices… well… better not to talk about it. Let’s say “an ipod for a meal?”

  • shockhits

    Hi, Can you please email me ASAP…i want to contact you about your photo of the MEGU kobe beef lava cooked on lava rock shot I’m researching for a publication…I can tell you more details as soon as I hear from you! thank you very much.