Gourmet Central

     Print Edition: Apr 15, 2012

Much Ado about Megu
The Japanese restaurant is an entirely immersive experience in the theatre of food.

Dramatic dining has held Delhi in its thrall for eons. We may never know Mughal decadence firsthand but there are a dozen restaurants that offer to replicate that culinary experience authentically, with their repertoire of hot spices and heavy curries. Japanese, though, is a subtle cuisine. Its flavour foundation relies on textures and aroma. How does it fare with folks accustomed to fanning a heat-flushed face before they can declare something delicious?

Megu switches the script and transports a spectacular stage, set to ease the transition. An 800 pound replica of the Todaiji temple bell in Nara crowns a crystal Buddha elevated in a pool of water in the central dining space. Tucked by the sushi bar is a private dining room panelled with glowing antique silk kimonos. Hand-tooled origami patterns form a mosaic entablature behind sliding Shoji screens to a more casual area.

The sheer height of each room is staggering. Outside, an oversized deck has the sunshades and low-slung couches that begot Sunday brunch. If all references to gilded samovars and marbled aangans haven't yet been dispelled, the food will definitively banish them.

The concept that a single meal should be an initiation to an entire culture can really get in the way of good food. Thankfully, Megu reserves its sermonising for Sake with a treatise on grades of polished rice but keeps the food menu clean and concise. Though Sake, specifically the piquant Rihaku junmai ginjo is a symphony that accompanies Megu's virtuouso performance.

Wagyu beef, tuna toro and Osetra caviar have starring roles, and foie gras puts in a cameo. By and large this is a lean, minimalist theatre to offset the outrageous opulence of the design. The baked unagi was an unlikely scene stealer, only brought to the table because a fellow diner couldn't have the curtain raiser of the Kanzuri chilli shrimp. 'Like popping joy into your mouth' was the consensus.

At Rs 3,000 the Wagyu carpaccio, sliced so thin it was a salve smeared on its custom-made salver, justified licking the plate clean. A cube of soy jelly dissolving in the heat of a smokeless white coal over a ceviche of salmon was a small, suspenseful moment.

The Wagyu flambeed in Hennessy had all the big ticket flair of a Kabuki opera. The music hit the only off-note that evening; insistently intrusive at a meal that otherwise had the critics raving.

Spicy Baked Unagi, Mentaiko & Avocado
Megu Crispy Asparagus, Rice Crackers
Meal for two Rs 8,000 (including taxes); for reservations call .. (011)-39331360

-Aditi Saxton

A Menu For All Seasons
The newest fine-dining spot on Delhi's Qutab mile promises a new menu every three months.

Chef Wild
Chef Wild employs fine techniques for an impeccable presentation
In a food scape where hats, aprons and Michelin stars rub eager shoulders, it pays to be creative. The Kila, on the Qutab style mile in Delhi, has a new baby: Azimuth. The chefs' studio is a fine-dining indoor space reflecting tones of dull silver and purple. It sports a metallic art installation by artist Valay Shende against one wall called, unsurprisingly, Azimuth.

Innovation is Azimuth's biggest USP. Every three months, an international chef of repute comes on board. He brings with him a new menu that sells until the next chef takes over. In other words, Azimuth offers a new menu every season.

The restaurant launched with Matthew Wild, an Australian two-hat chef who has catered meals for celebrities like Madonna, Elton John and even the Rolling Stones.

His menu (on till end-May) is uncluttered and divided into three sections; starters, mains and desserts. The vodka and sugar cured salmon with tomato jelly, Granny Smith apples and chervil,is smooth and an elegant take on an otherwise banal salmon starter.

For mains, Matthew produced a seafood broth, which with a base reminiscent of classic minestrone triumphed. The thick, herb-infused broth had plump prawns, saffron potatoes and green rouille soaked to the skin. The wood fired spatchcock drizzled with a fragrant lemon sauce was sheer joy.

Prawn in citrus marinade roasted in a clay pot
Prawn in citrus marinade roasted in a clay pot
The dessert section is limited. The chocolate fondant, an old classic, was of perfect consistency, but the salted butter took away from the richness of the deep chocolate. The assiette of Granny Smith apple had an apple crème brulee which was creamy; the apple crumble which was crunch and mush; and an apple jelly, which was a bit of a disappointment.

What I loved about Azimuth were its portions. This is not a fine dining space where you go back with enough stomach room to start over. Generous portions, clean flavours and muted music add to the happiness factor.

While the food offers value for money, the drinks are overpriced (Rs 1000 for any martini plus taxes). Azimuth shrugs off the stiff upper lip generally associated with high-end spaces. Instead, it welcomes those who love and appreciate great food into its fold.
Pear and aniseed martinif
Fast-roasted tiger prawns with herbs
Meal for two: Rs 4,500 (including taxes, without alcohol
For reservations ..(011) 30800300

-Prachi Bhuchar

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