Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Shochu, is it really you?

As I've mentioned before on this blog, my girl Kate is getting married soon. As her maid of honor, it is my duty to throw her the ultimate in shindigs - the bachelorette party. The evening promises to be fun, and I have started to look into restaurants. The problem? It's not always easy to find a place in NY where even picky eaters can find something, that is big enough to a group of 12 or 15, that is reasonably priced, and has quality food. On top of that, Kate would really like a Japanese restaurant.

So, last week, Jim gamely agreed to join me as I tested out Megu on Thomas Street. About two months ago, Jim and I had dinner at a place he had heard about from a co-clerk called Yakitori Totto. YT is a Japanese grill and the food is really solid. Unfortunately, it's also rather small and they don't take reservations, so I didn't think that would work for Kate's party. At YT, I tried shochu for the first time - shochu is a distilled Japanese liquor. I didn't think much of it. But my evening at Megu got off to a hopeful start when I decided to give it another go with their "shochu smash." Yummy. It was a very nice drink - definitely tasted the shochu, but as the bartender told me, the restaurant infuses all its own shochu with different fruits.

Jim met me at the bar, and after a drink, we went to our table. The downstairs dining room is very large, has a beautiful lighting scheme, and a reflecting pool in the center of the room with a large ice sculpture of the Buddha. Rose petals are scattered on the surface of the pool and an enormous bell inscribed with Japanese print hangs over the Buddha.

Our reservation was for 7pm and the dining room was only half full. By the time we left, it was closer to capacity. We sat and admired the room for a few minutes before our waiter came over to talk with us. The waitstaff at Megu all wear suits and could easily pass as Maitre d's. Regardless, our waiter was tremendously knowledgeable about the voluminous (and I do mean voluminous) menu, had no problem making recommendations when we asked for his opinion, and was generally attentive and pleasant. As he suggested, Jim and I opted to order several dishes and share them.

We split a spicy salmon belly roll and a kebob of kobe beef in garlic sauce to start. The roll was served with fresh wasobi. And by fresh, I mean the waiter walked over with the wasabi root and a grinding stone and mashed us up some wasabi. I've never had wasabi that fresh before, and let me assure you - it was entirely different and better than the tube. Big surprise. Next up came the shrimp in a kanzuri cream sauce. That was pretty darn spicy and had a more Thai kick to it.

Next up - I ordered one piece of uni (sea urchin) because that's Kate's favorite and I had better made damn sure that the uni is good, and Jim had a piece of mackeral.

Jim: What does it taste like?
Me: Tastes like the sea. Yours?
Jim: Tastes like I went down to the sea and licked the wharf. In a good way.

Suffice it to say - all of the fish tasted very fresh.

Following that came the Bara Scatter Sushi. And that was my one complaint regarding the food. While I liked the scatter sushi, I was not prepared for what it was. According to our waiter, in Japan, not everyone knows how to make sushi, or has the money for the fish. So, they will buy a variety of fish cut it up into small pieces and mix it up in a large bowl of rice. And that's what we got. It was actually quite yummy, and it was really a rather large serving. Jim and I kept hoovering it down, but it took quite awhile to get through it all.

None of this stopped us from ordering dessert - a sweet little chocolate gateau filled with chocolate cream, strawberries, and Japanese bean, with a side of green tea ice cream. It was definitely the highlight of the meal for me. After stuffing ourselves, we sipped some coffee and people-watched.

Me: Seems to me that a lot of the people here are Euro....
Jim: Say it. Say it!
Me: trashy.
Jim: I would say that it serves a varied European clientele looking to make a splash and Japanese businessmen accompanied by their.... dates.
Me: Awww come on, say it!
Jim: Well, I'll just say that the most expensive thing here is not on the menu.

Jim and I spent the rest of the time doing what we always do - chatting and amiably arguing over completely random and diverse topics, including, but not limited to, how the Chinese characterize the spiciness of food, the area of the brain that is stimulated by cute animals and children, and Rudolph Guiliani.

So, in summation, Megu is really quite trendy, had a beautiful space, attentive staff, good food, and good people watching. But for the cost, I'm not sure the food is quite as strong as it should be. While we left quite stuffed, our wallets were certainly lighter. I feel confident in saying that I will not daydream about any of the dishes at Megu the way I daydream of the grilled chicken livers from Yakitori Totto (seriously. un. believable.) So the end decision is not to have Kate's bachelorette party there and I am, sadly, back to the drawing board. It's too bad - the space would have been perfect and while it was crowded and bustling, I never had any trouble hearing Jim. The miracle of acoustics.

Recommendations are always welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Pablo of the Broadening-Taste Spectrum9:19 AM

    Why not a hibachi place? Seems like fun for a party and meets your conditions. We can go sample them together and then karaoke afterward.

    I'm turning Japanese I think I'm turning Japanese I really think so.