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Chef Saito: Megu's Master of Modern Japanese Cuisine

  By CHELNA KHATAU   Feb 29th 2012 at 6:00AM Lifestyle RATED

Chef Yutaka Saito

 


The food you will tuck into at MEGU, the Japanese restaurant at The Leela Palace in New Delhi, has been described at various times as trendy, and even avant-garde.

The cooking has flare, one of the most-talked-about cooking techniques at MEGU is Sumibi Aburiyaki, where a Binchotan charcoal, known for purifying properties, is used to grill fish and meat, and another style, Toban Yaki, includes roasting food (mainly sea food and meat) on a ceramic plate. And the menu has even been expanded to include vegetarian fare.  Around 15 dishes have been included after "intensive research, numerous food tastings and contributions from the team," says Chef Yutaka Saito, the man at the helm in the MEGU kitchen.

We spoke to Chef Saito about cooking in India and eating at MEGU

 

Chelna Khatau

How did you develop a passion for cooking?

Chef Yutaka Saito

My ties to the kitchen go back to when I was 11 years old. Ever since, I have had exposure to cooking in some form or the other. Whether it be cooking for family or starting my first job in a restaurant as a dishwasher; cooking has remained my ultimate passion. Japanese kitchens demand a great deal of sacrifice and an inherent passion to excel. It is this passion that has fuelled me, in the last 34 years, to excel every day.

Chelna Khatau

How would you define good food?

Chef Yutaka Saito

Good food is a combination of the best ingredients, cooked and presented with utmost care and love.

Chelna Khatau

What excites you about cooking in India?

Chef Yutaka Saito

The opportunity to cook in India presents itself as a challenge. A different palette, ingredients and high customer expectations make it a tough task. Also I am excited to work with a young, talented and 'eager to learn' team.

chef saito megus master of modern japanese cuisine
The private dining room at MEGU

Chelna Khatau

What challenges have you faced while cooking in India?

Chef Yutaka Saito

One of the biggest challenges is to please vegetarian guests, as India is known for its vegetarian cuisine and Japan hardly has any vegetarian food. Another challenge is that the spice acceptability of the Indian palate that makes it difficult to serve them authentic Japanese food, which might be perceived as bland.

Chelna Khatau

Great emphasis is paid to the plating your dishes. How does this add to the eating experience?

Chef Yutaka Saito

Food is eaten and enjoyed through different senses; taste, smell, texture and presentation all play a vital role in providing a memorable dining experience. The first sense that is touched upon is vision and that makes it crucial for food to look beautiful. Here at MEGU, we respect these senses.

chef saito megus master of modern japanese cuisine
MEGU's Crispy Asparagus

Chelna Khatau

What dishes on Megu's menu will we not find anywhere else?

Chef Yutaka Saito

Okaki Asparagus, Carpaccios, Kanzuri Shrimp, contemporary sushi, rolls and intriguing desserts are some of the highlights but the entire menu is a unique modern Japanese experience.

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