Vir Sanghvi Reviews | Megu, Delhi

Vir Sanghvi Reviews | Megu, Delhi

When The Leela Palace opened in Delhi, sceptics wondered how the chain would ever recover the staggering costs it had incurred in building the property—easily India’s most expensive hotel. The Leela’s solution has been to price its rooms higher than other hotels and to open expensive restaurants.

I don’t know how well the room-pricing strategy is working but so far at least, the restaurants are doing well. Le Cirque is packed night after night despite astonishingly high prices. And now there is Megu, by a long way the most upmarket Japanese restaurant in India. Both Megu and Le Cirque are Indian outposts of New York chains and the pricing seems to have been planned in dollars.

The food is trendier than traditional Japanese cuisine but it seeks to preserve authentic Japanese flavours. I have been there thrice but as I was a guest of somebody else on the first two occasions, I’ll focus on the third when I went for the express purpose of writing this review.

We started with the rock shrimp tempura (Rs875), a dish beloved of Nobu-style restaurants including the Taj’s Wasabi. I thought the frying was spot on and the dish used whole, small, sweet shrimp rather than the chunks of a larger shrimp that is the norm at other restaurants. A dish of crispy calamari (Rs700) was slightly less successful. There was nothing wrong with the recipe but I suspect the calamari had spent a few seconds longer than they should have in the pan, leaving the squid slightly chewy.

A main course of steamed sea bass in a light, ginger and mushroom-infused liquor (Rs2,000) was terrific, delicate to the bite and full of flavour. Grilled King Salmon, Chan-Chan style (Rs2,500), came with a flourish in the presentation. Sumitra, our waitress, cooked the vegetables by the side of our table and then mashed two cubes of salmon into them. The dish came with four other cubes of salmon and while it was delicious, I thought it suffered from the quality of the salmon used (Norwegian, I would guess) which was mushy and tasteless.

Our meal for two, with two glasses of wine, came to Rs8,846, which is not bad by Le Cirque standards. We could have eaten much more expensively, of course. The menu offers Wagyu beef on a hot stone at Rs6,000 and pan-seared lobster at Rs3,000. On the other hand, we could have eaten for less as well. A large sushi and sashimi platter, which is enough for two, is Rs3,750.

All things considered, the restaurant is roughly in the same price range as the Taj’s Wasabi or The Metropolitan’s Sakura. Nearly all of the ingredients are flown in so food costs are high. So I am not sure if it is going to make large enough profits to help The Leela recover its massive investment.

On the other hand, the restaurant is already full. A friend who called to book a table two days in advance was told that his request would be placed on the waiting list and they would call him if something became available. Like Le Cirque, which turns people away even as they arrive, wads of cash in their hands, Megu seems set to become the new ‘in place’ for a certain kind of high-spending Delhiite.

But I am not complaining. The food is good, the service is professional, knowledgeable and accomplished and the room is so stunning that you always have a sense of glamour and luxury when you eat there.

Finally, that may be The Leela Palace’s greatest achievement. It has come into a smugly satisfied hotel dining scene in Delhi, imported glitzy New York restaurants and suddenly changed all the rules in this sector. It has demonstrated that you can sell high-quality European food in Delhi even if you charge steep prices because there is now enough money in the market and people are ready to experiment. The early success of Megu seems set to build on the foundations laid by Le Cirque. If the restaurant continues to do this well then it will prove that you can serve Japanese food in Delhi outside of the charmed circle of south Delhi sophisticates (as Wasabi does) or Korean and Japanese expatriates (as Sakura does).

For reservations, call 011-39331360.

Vir Sanghvi is adviser, HT Media Ltd.

Write to lounge@livemint.com

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