Food & Wine Lifestyle Luxury Hotels Travel

Eulogistic, memory-of-a-lifetime fantastic dining in New York City, part one

Asparagus 'lollipop' starter at MEGU Midtown

Dining at New York City’s MEGU Midtown, in Trump World Tower across from the UN Plaza, is one of the most memorable culinary experiences the gal has ever had.

From the meal’s beginning to end it was a dream (actually orgasmic is a word that reared its exciting verbal head several times around the table of five, two guys and three girls – Joe 1, Joe Cinque, boss of the established American Academy of Hospitality Sciences; Joe 2, Joe Green, boss of the newly-founded Green Crisis Media Inc; Karen Dixon, who makes the American Academy work;, and Koichi Yokoyama, who makes MEGU work).

The word MEGU means ‘blessing’ and the concept was named by its entrepreneurial founder and owner Masa, Masahiro Origuchi.

The asparagus skewer dish comes on (or in) a slate stone - MEGU Midtown, Trump World Tower, New York

The asparagus skewer dish comes on (or in) a slate stone

He found an empty room in Tokyo and started Juliana’s nightclub, sold it on and moved to talent – also known as staffing solutions or HR, Human Resources – outsourcing, via a company called Goodwill Group that seems to have attracted not only good will but a bit of good-heavens, too.

Next stop was nursing homes, catering to all those little old Japanese who seem to live forever, and after that he turned to restaurants.

Here was a good idea.  Some places in Japan charged a mere 80 cents for a chicken yakitori skewer.  He priced his at five dollars.  His ruse worked…  soon he had lots of restaurants, but he yearned to have something in the great USA.

MEGU Midtown is one of two MEGUs in New York City, and both are owned and managed by Food Scope America Inc, headed by its exuberant President, Koichi Yokoyama.  He is from Osaka. ‘The people there are much more fun than in Tokyo’, he says ‘Osaka people are comics’.

We discussed being in Osaka last month, and visits to three of its luxury hotels, and Miss Kitty and other all-ages-young shopping opportunities.  Koichi-san wants Beverly Hills, and Las Vegas.  He says there are also a select number of franchised MEGUs, run by their owners but with careful control from head office.

MEGU Midtown restaurant at Trump World Tower, New YorkSo far there are MEGU restaurants in Doha, at The Pearl; in Moscow, at Hotel Lotte, and in New Delhi, at Leela Palace Chankyapuri, in the diplomatic area of town – where we ate last month, at the other signature restaurant, Le Cirque (run by the family of Sirio Maccioni, who will do a Sirio at The Pierre in New York).

Coming up is a MEGU at the sugar-king-owned Alpina Grand Hotel in Gstaad, opening December 1st, 2012 (its General Manager will be food-loving Nik Leuenberger, who first introduced the gal to the best-ever Caesar Salad in The Peninsula Manila a few years ago – it was followed, if the memory is correct, by a cheese fondue).

MEGU Midtown was designed by Morita Yasumichi – who funnily enough also comes from Osaka.  His latest company is called Glamorous, and one of his first projects was Kitchen, in W Hong Kong, where he has come up with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party concept, including black display cabinets that hold ‘sculptures’ of all-white china plates and bowls.

Here he has made the design rise vertically.  The bar has enormous photos showing the “heart of Japan,” on seven-foot Kimono fabric pedestals.

Creative ice igloo for sashimi or carpaccio - MEGU Midtown, Trump World Tower, New York

Table-top ice 'igloos' hold your choice of carpaccio or sashimi

In the main dining room, which has open sushi and teppanyaki kitchens, everything points from floor up to ceiling, or vice versa.

Really enormous hanging-urn lampshades are adorned with 6,000 cherry wood disks, each a family crest from a stated historic family of Japan.  You see a 500-lb crystal chandelier, and a 27-foot hand-drawn mural of tigers, ready for the kill.

And you are ready for the kill, in culinary terms.  Fortunately there are two Japanese chefs, working alongside ardent American colleagues, and some of the waiters are also Japanese – having had such superb Japanese dining lessons on my visits to Japan, I know the value of the real thing when it comes to sourcing, preparing and serving Japanese food.

We start, with the signature Original Crispy Asparagus – and original it certainly is.  What look like lollipops arrive stuck into a slate block, with flowers either end. Each length of green asparagus has been pierced, from top to toe, with a wood skewer. It is rolled in ground up Okaki spicy rice crackers, and flash-fried.  Delicious.  Even as a five-year old, lollipops never tasted as good as this.

Around us groups of Caucasian tycoons and other high-spending gourmets looked as happy as our table.  Over 90 percent of those who dine here are non-Japanese, and of the total 30 percent come more than once.

Salmon tartare 'cake' - MEGU Midtown, in Trump World Tower, New York

Salmon tartare 'cake'

I would come again, for any one of our multi-tasting courses.  Have I got the order right?   An ice igloo holds your choice of prime beef from Oregon (MEGU calls it ‘kobe’ while most others would use the term ‘wagyu’), or, if you prefer, sashimi, from fish flown in from Tokyo’s world-beating Tsukiji fish market.

And then what about the Edamame soup, a thick green affair, of pulverized beans?  You get a little branch of rosemary on the side.  Taste the soup first.  Then twirl the twig in the soup and taste again, to taste the difference.

After this comes a salmon tartare mound, sitting as a cake on a specially-designed Japanese porcelain plate.  It is filled with salmon roe and Oscietre caviar. The ‘cake’ is presented before being broken up by a white-hot charcoal rod that cooks its centre to a divine Ikura sauce.

Since that other great Japanese name, Nobu, is doing his own hotel (or at least his backers are putting his name to a mini-hotel going into Caesars Palace, Las Vegas) will we ever see MEGU over the door of a luxury hotel, or even a luxury resort? The meal continues while a reply comes…