Cementing a spot on the coveted Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list is no easy feat. Megu, a Japanese restaurant tucked within the plush environs of The Leela Palace New Delhi, recently clinched the second last position on its debut feature. In a conversation with Travel + Leisure India & South India, Chef Shubham Thakur, the chef de cuisine of the award-winning restaurant, dives deeper into the success mantra, what lies ahead for Megu, and more. By Bayar Jain
Excerpts from the interview with Chef Shubham Thakur, chef de cuisine, Megu
T+L India: Megu recently featured on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list at no. 49. Which aspects of the restaurant, would you say, propelled it into the list?
Chef Shubham Thakur: Megu has acclaimed a modern take on Japanese cuisine while paying homage to traditional aromas. Over the years, Megu has consistently delivered the best Japanese dining experience in New Delhi, and offered the best of Japanese flavours amid strikingly contemporary interiors. Over 60 varieties of sterling sake crafting a perfect glass to complement every dish, concocts for a mesmerising and authentic experience. We, as a team, have also focused on bringing out innovations and being creative with our approach. Megu has certainly won many hearts and continues to be one of the favourite restaurants for Japanese food—not just in the city but across the country.
T+L India: The restaurant focuses on Japanese cuisine. What is the thought process/philosophy behind the menu you’ve curated?
Chef Shubham Thakur: The menu focuses on different nuances of Japanese cuisine. Though we are a modern Japanese restaurant, but our endeavour is to always keep the value and ethos of the core cuisine. We believe in building a cohesive menu representing quality ingredients from the mother cuisine to the region where we are serving it.
T+L India: What’s your favourite dish on the Megu menu?
Chef Shubham Thakur: All our are my favourite! If I must choose one, I guess a basic salmon hand roll would be my go-to favourite dish.
T+L India: How do you distinguish yourself from the other outlets of Megu around the world? Have you made any tweaks to your Japanese cuisine specifically to suit the Indian palate?
Chef Shubham Thakur: Indian diners are very appreciative of new flavours and newer thought processes. We have made dishes that are more relatable and help bridge the two distinctive cultures. We don’t rely on ingredients flown in from some part of the world, but also focus on cultural similarity and present it that way. For instance, we have a variety of both non–vegetarian and vegetarian choices in our menu.
T+L India: What are the challenges you face in presenting authentic Japanese flavours to India?
Chef Shubham Thakur: I believe the moment a cuisine goes away from the region of its origin, its cannot be called authentic. A staple of one region takes time to flourish its footprint in a new region with a different dining quality and consumer acceptance.
T+L India: What are some myths or stereotypes about Japanese food that you would like to debunk?
Chef Shubham Thakur: That’s it’s a primarily raw seafood– and meat-based cuisine. The cuisine is very dynamic and approachable.
T+L India: Can you reflect on the big trends that you see/foresee in the Indian culinary scene?
Chef Shubham Thakur: There’s a lot happening on the domestic front. Lots of concept driven restaurants are coming up with amazing propositions and a zeal to make an impactful change.
T+L India: What’s next for Megu?
Chef Shubham Thakur: We will be launching our new menu soon and simultaneously working on new concepts. Stay tuned!
T+L India: Which is your favourite place in Japan for a meal?
Chef Shubham Thakur: Osaka.
T+L India: What is the most memorable meal you’ve had and where was it?
Chef Shubham Thakur: Recently ate at a beautiful regional Thai restaurant called Paste, run by one of Asia’s best chef. It was indeed a memorable one.
T+L India: Your go-to Japanese dish?
Chef Shubham Thakur: Tonkatsu ramen.
T+L India: Any culinary destinations on your bucket list?
Chef Shubham Thakur: Japan, for sure!