Megu-Moscow’s Premier Japanese Fusion Restaurant
Megu means “blessing” in Japanese, and that term elegantly understates the dining experience to be found in this sophisticated, but hip, culinary establishment. Megu’s stated goal is “to leave a memorable impression on each guest, providing the utmost in genuine and personalized hospitality.” Our evening meal at Megu in Moscow’s Lotte Hotel was both memorable and delightful.
Megu’s philosophy is to feature a team of selected chefs who work as a distinctive unit, eschewing the concept of a star chef in favor highlighting the ingredients themselves as the stars. Megu’s chefs successfully tie exotic Japanese flavors to western culinary traditions.
Moscow’s five-star Lotte Hotel has produced an international sensation, hosting two spectacular dining establishments under one roof, Les Menus and now Megu. Les Menus’ three-star Michelin chef Pierre Gagnier’s is considered the founder of modern French fusion style and honored by the toughest restaurant critics. His Parisian enterprise was ranked third on a list of the top 50 restaurants in the world by British Restaurant Magazine in 2007 and 2008. Now that Megu has been added to Lotte’s slate of fine dining options, the choice of where to dine becomes excruciatingly difficult.
Megu won fame among New York critics for both its restaurants, one located in lower Manhattan and the other in midtown. Today, in addition to its presence in Moscow, Megu has added locations in Gstaad, Switzerland, Mumbai and New Delhi in India, and Doha, the capital city of Qatar.
After enjoying a glass of sparkling sake, we began ordering from the extensive menu, following the suggestions of our well-trained server who was one day away from going to New York to obtain even more training. The service we received throughout our meal was professional, yet light-hearted, intellectually enriching, and respectful. A big part of the Megu dining experience involves taking the time to ask questions, listening to suggestions, and interacting with the wait-staff with curiosity and good humor. For us, it meant leaving Megu more as a friend than as a customer.
At the suggestion of our server, we ordered three of Megu’s Signature Dishes. Standing at the top of the menu, under the statement “Art unfolds at the table,” we began with what is considered to be the most popular of Megu’s Signature Dishes. The name “Original Crispy Asparagus” does not do justice to the four spears of asparagus, threaded onto wooden skewers, served as stiff soldiers standing at attention. The delicacy, perhaps the hit of the evening, is served with “Okaki” Japanese Spicy Rice Crackers battered and flash fried. Not only was the presentation of skewered asparagus unusual, but so was the taste, providing the palate with a combination of spicy flavors, allowing the delicacy of the asparagus to be savored along with the crispy battered exterior.
Next came “Salmon Tartare,” served with Ikura Sauce and Russian caviar. Mixed at our table in a hot wok, the salmon was topped with soy-marinated Ikura and Wasabi soy mousse. Once again, the presentation was extraordinarily elegant, enhancing the dining experience with the expectation of something special to behold and savor. A medley of warm, tangy, spicy, and tart flavors produced a welcome taste sensation.
Our third dish was “Crispy Kanzuri Shrimp. This was served with spicy cream and lightly tempura battered and flash fried. We learned that Kanzuri was a red chili paste from Japan that was fermented for three to four years. In Japan, the peppers are harvested, salted and left to begin fermenting in the snow, then mixed with other ingredients like rice malt, and aged for three years to produce the finished paste. This dish, along with the Crispy Asparagus, may be two of the most popular dishes at Megu, and anyone who tastes them will readily understand why. They are offered together in their New York locations on a “Prix Fixe” menu.
We were then served “Akadashi” Red Miso soup. I learned that soup made with the black miso paste is called “aka-dashi” (red broth) and is a traditional dish throughout Japan. Other soups on the menu are “Emerald” edamame soup and a spicy bouillabaisse miso soup.
Our spectacular main course was Megu’s signature River Stone Grill. This was a super premium “Kageri Yaki” Wagyu beef steak served on a sizzling stone grill with Hennessey flambé. For some reason, the famous “Kobe” beef of Japan is not considered legal in Russia. Instead, there is a Wagyu beef grown in Australia or New Zealand that is produced in a similar fashion, making the two indistinguishable. The tender cut of beef was served rare, already sliced on a sizzling hot stone platter. Diners who wanted their beef cooked longer were encouraged to leave the meat on the stone platter. We chose to immediately remove the steak portions as the chefs recommend. Every bite was an extraordinary taste sensation.
Ten dessert choices awaited. New York cheesecake, ice cream sorbet, an assorted fresh fruit platter, and tiramisu with crunchy almonds were immediately recognizable. Other offerings were “Swan de Chou,” (a cream puff with creamy fruit), Yuzu Crème Brulée, chocolate azuki fondant, Panna Cotta topped with assorted fruits, Ichiga shortcake with strawberry ice cream, and Shiratama zenzai. I opted for the Crème Brulée and my wife enjoyed the tiramisu.
Megu is an extraordinary dining experience. We learned that the Moscow location is frequented by representatives of the Japanese Embassy, their top clients. It’s easy to see why. It may be the best place outside of Japan to experience the flavors of the East served with impeccable ambience and grace. Dine at Megu at least once in your lifetime. You won’t be disappointed.