Firstly, there are Japanese restaurants. Then, there are Japanese restaurants that serve good sushi. And then, there are Japanese restaurants that only do ramen. Still, there are also Japanese yakiniku restaurants.
And how about really good Japanese teppanyaki restaurants that serve the best Wagyu beef money can buy? This is also not to be confused with cheap and cheerful Japanese teppanyaki restaurants that want you to catch an egg with your bowl and write “thank you for being silly goose entertaining entire restaurant wearing Japanese fried rice on your hair” with salt on the teppanyaki griddle at the end of your meal.
The list for different types of Japanese restaurants go on and on.
But this evening, we are dining in a hybrid Japanese. It does sushi, sashimi, shabu-shabu AND yakiniku. It claims to be Australia’s first and finest Japanese BBQ restaurant. There could be some truth in this statement because Rengaya is a North Sydney stalwart and this restaurant is continuing to attract a mix of locals, business types and international tourists since 1993.
Mysaucepan and I were once regulars at this restaurant many years ago even before we began blogging about our food escapades. It is heartening that after so many years, this place is still vibrant with its army of cheerful and attentive wait staff.
Seaweed salad is topped with impossibly thin bonito flakes curling up and having a life of its own. Strips of seaweed and butter lettuce are crisp with the nuttiness of a creamy sesame dressing.
Baby spinach leaves, roasted almond flakes and tuna are tossed with a tangy soy dressing in a spinach and almond salad.
I would imagine this salad being a novel albeit staple diet should I decide to turn pescetarian.
There are nine of us tonight including my parents who are visiting from overseas. A big group is definitely the way to go if you decide on Japanese yakiniku because you get a whole lot more variety with more diners, let alone sharing the cooking duties on the table.
Rengaya also allows BYO wine at $3 per person and we have brought a selection of five bottles to choose from.
Rengaya prides itself as a seafood restaurant where fresh salmon, tuna and kingfish sashimi are the mainstays on its seafood menu.
Scampi sashimi comes with an odd three scampi in each portion, a great opportunity for the boys to impress and show some chivalry on a romantic date. For tonight, it’s just right with three portions for the nine of us. It is naturally sweet with a gentle but firm texture. Dipped into light soy sauce laced with a bit of wasabi, it might be worth the $6.96666667 per mouthful of eye-closing moment if you have not tried this raw crustacean before.
Scampi is beautiful with its bright red and orange shell but what would you do with the heads that hold the most intense flavours? It might be confronting even for seafood die-hards to suck the raw contents from the heads.
Fret not, because you can opt for piping hot miso soup made from the scampi heads and shells for an extra $5 per bowl. We choose this option for the nine of us because miso soup is a must if you decide on scampi sashimi.
Special ox tongue has a firm and slightly chewy texture when cooked to well-done on the grill.
There is also wagyu ox tongue in thick cut for $33.90 per 100gm on the menu which, in my opinion, is rather ridiculous for a few slices of offal.
For me, I would pass on ox tongue here because you can get the same thing at your cheap and cheerful neighbourhood Korean BBQ.
The intricate web of marbling on a few slices of wagyu short rib is unmistakable.
Seared to medium-well allows the fat to render and caramelize under the hot grill. These wagyu short rib slices turn out tender, juicy and full of beefy goodness.
Premium pork neck slices take on a firm and crunchy texture when cooked.
Tasty as it may be, I personally prefer the bold and meaty flavours of beef compared to pork for Japanese yakiniku.
As a premier Japanese yakiniku restaurant, Rengaya serves top quality wagyu beef. The menu states that its wagyu beef has a Marble Beef Score of 9+, which is the highest rating for Australian wagyu beef.
There is no MBS rating for each individual cut of beef so the menu is implying the 9+ MBS score applies to all cuts of beef. The wagyu premium loin is one of the more expensive cuts which comes in 200gm portions. The marbling is rather obvious and I would hazard a guess of approximately 40% fat content.
The sight, sound and aromas of the wagyu premium loin sizzling on the grill are truly a feast for all the senses. This meat is succulent, juicy and the flavour of beef is bold.
There are approximately nine pieces for each 200gm portion of this wagyu premium loin. Seared to medium-well, it is definitely one of the best mouthfuls of beef that one can experience. Tasty as it may be, I do wonder if it’s worth its value of $400 per kilogram.
Stone pot bibimba is Japanese style paella that arrives sizzling with beef mince, vegetables, egg, nori and of course, rice in the tradition of crusty socarrat.
Mixed with a dollop of sweet and spicy miso paste, this is comfort carb on a cold evening.
Salmon flake rice is every bit as tasty as it looks with bits of fish, salmon roe and nori.
Japanese green tea ice cream and black sesame ice cream with its signature dollop of red bean paste are beckoning us, especially after toying in front of a hot yakiniku grill for the past two hours.
Rengaya is by no means cheap because it offers top quality stuff on its menu. Located in North Sydney CBD, it is competing with a host of good food choices during the day. By night fall when the business crowd has gone home, this area is a culinary wasteland.
But having been an upmarket restaurant in a major business precinct for more than twenty years, I think Rengaya must be doing something right.
So dear readers, what is your favourite style of Japanese food?
73 Miller street
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9929 6169
Opening hours: Lunch Monday – Friday 12pm – 2pm, last order 2pm. Dinner Monday to Saturday 6pm – 10.30pm, last order 9.30pm. Sunday 5.30pm – 10pm, last order 9pm.