845 United Nations Plaza
(at 47th Street and First Avenue)
By Jeanine Zelkas
Megu, which translates to “blessings” in Japanese, has enjoyed a huge success in TriBeCa, and recently added its new second home in the Trump World Tower across the street from the United Nations. Megu Midtown is smaller and has a slightly different menu but it is most certainly a force to be reckoned with in its own right. Founder and chief executive chef, Koji Imai, in pursuit of the ultimate food experience and gifted with artistic style, has created a sophisticated restaurant with flair, featuring memorable modern Japanese cuisine.
A big Buddha sculpted from ice grandly sits in a silver disk perched atop the bar in the center of the main dining room. It is at this bar where, in addition to conventional tables and booths, there is seating for pairs on comfy little sofas built for two. A partial wall offering an image of a serene cloud-filled sky, while a bit claustrophobic at first, quickly morphs into a pleasant backdrop for a cozy private seating alternative.
With soaring lamp shade light fixtures and long strings of big black beads and tassels, a stunning black crystal chandelier, and severe thick chunks of black walls in direct contrast to the airy open feel of huge windows covered in long sheer white curtains, the drama of the décor harmonizes perfectly with the drama of the creations Koji Imai has come up with. Each dish is presented as a work of art, some glowing from within by a neon light cube, some ceremoniously set aflame, some skewered and perched atop a screen over the hot charcoal of a mini barbecue as in the case of mouth- watering teriyaki grilled foie gras and several succulent Kobe beef centric options.
There are three ways to dine at Megu: à la carte; a self-navigating tasting menu; or “from the heart” where the chef prepares a personalized variety of dishes based on answers given to matters of allergies, preferences, aversions, and desired price range. We opted for the seven-course tasting menu—a great value at only $70. The wine, sake and beer pairing by the sommelier turned out to be a very educational experience, as it seems there is as much to know about sake as there is about wine. The Japanese draught beer presented with our sushi course was a refreshing delight and the vibrant white rioja from the Basque region proved to be an ideal mate for the smoky flavor of the maitake mushroom soup which is set atop a flame and siphoned through clear round beakers connected by glass tubes like a chemistry experiment. All this tableside service had a genuinely fun appeal. While I truly enjoyed the fresh tuna, snapper and salmon, the real highlight of the sushi course was the tableside grating of fresh wasabi root. By using a sharkskin grater, flavor is released and a creamy consistency achieved. Wild snapper laid out over a bedding of vegetables and nuts is seared in front of diners with an aromatic pour of hot sesame oil.
Fresh caught fish and other ingredients, such as wasabi root and fruit native to East Asia, are shipped express directly from local fisheries and farms all over Japan and elsewhere in the world. The warm layered appetizer of baked eel and unagi separated by creamy avocado was fantastic and sliced chu-toro tuna steak sautéed in soy sauce and served with white truffle oil sauce and Japanese horseradish was as close to perfection as a dish can get. After such a great meal it was no surprise that the cloudlike coffee crepe was something special as well. Each of the many layers of thin crepes alternated with layers of rich fluffy coffee cream.
At Megu Midtown, diners are offered a grand experience with attentive and enthusiastic service that begins the moment guests enter through the door and continues throughout the entire exceptionally well executed meal.