Did We Go Ga-Ga At Megu?

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.

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