I think about the future at least three times a day. But once I've figured out what I'm going to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I occasionally have the freedom to engage in some long-range planning. That's when I try to figure out what I'm going to eat 10 years from now. Lately, I've been doing my crystal-ball gazing in a couple of local restaurants. Both are Japanese, in one way or another; both are in Manhattan; both opened just over a year ago. (Sometimes the future takes a while to reveal itself.)
One is the size of a small cruise ship. Two hundred and thirty-six people can sit down without bumping elbows. About $6 million was spent on interior details like a wall of silk kimonos, columns built from interlocking sake pitchers and rice bowls, and a giant replica of a temple bell suspended over a life-size Buddha carved from a fresh block of ice each afternoon. The restaurant is called Megu, and it's the first American project of 35-year-old Koji Imai.
Some chefs are married to their restaurants; Imai is a cheerful polygamist, with 30 restaurants in Japan and new ones—in Hong Kong, in London, in Vegas—slated to open every six months. Obviously he can't be in all his kitchens at once, so Imai leaves behind recipes so detailed the parking valet could follow them. Once a month he flies to New York City and spends an afternoon coming up with new menu items, which attendants photograph, measure and enter into a black three-ring binder. Food Scope, Imai's company (or, according to the Web site, his "global food conglomerate") has revenue of around $71 million a year and is about to merge with a company that provides nursing care and outsourcing services. Sometime next year Imai will open a second New York Megu, in a skyscraper that Donald Trump owns near the United Nations. Megu at Trump World Tower will be half the size of the original Megu, in Tribeca, and will focus more on tasting menus.