Japanese, the way it always should be

I’d dined at Megu (http://www.megurestaurants.com) once before a couple of years ago but had forgotten just how good it was. Nestled just off Broadway in Tribeca, I was completely blown away by the whole experience. From decor to menu, service to flavours, this place has it all. If you’re thinking sad looking sushi chugging round a carousel, then think again.

The bar upstairs reminded me of a strange club-like netherworld, the sort of bar I’d normally find in some uber-trendy SoHo club, not New York’s finest Japanese restaurant. Service was too slow, but Hendricks is always a welcome start to any meal.

Going downstairs into the main atrium-like restaurant the first thing you notice is the illuminated ice Buddha, sitting beneath an enormous bell. This thing is huge. Would be too over-the-top anywhere other than New York but then, this is the city that does things bigger than anywhere else.

Our server was typically – for the US – attentive and knowledgeable and he didn’t perform the cardinal sin of servers in lower-end restaurants: kneeling down. He did, however, advise on our selection without being too pushy. Loving Japanese food this menu is a challenge even for the most experienced of diners. Abandoning the traditional appetizer/entree format, it’s almost like they just threw all the items up in the air and caught them on the paper as they landed. That said, I reckon the word “Kobe” (as in beef) must have been mentioned well over a dozen times.

Amongst the many dishes we tried a few stood out as favourites, the Kobu beef croquettes blended ground beef with a thin wrapping of fois grois. Real melt in the mouth stuff. And the silver cod miso skewer was outstanding. Even the more mainstream sushi items we selected were carefully prepared, with a good balance of flavour. And, of course, no wasabi from a jar at Megu. Theirs comes freshly grated right from the root. In fact all the food was excellent; there was nothing I didn’t enjoy. This is without doubt some of the finest Japanese food in Manhattan. Eat your heart out Nobu.

But all the above does come at a price. This isn’t a place you’d just pop out to for a quick snack. This is definitely a special occasions restaurant and, frankly, you get what you pay for when it comes to food. I hear it’s growing in reputation as a celebs hang-out which I can only hope will not elevate the prices even further. If you’re after the finest Japanese food that money can buy, I challenge you to do better than Megu.

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