Getting our BBQ on at Rengaya, North Sydney

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Fire. It's perhaps the most primitive form of cooking there is. Watching flames dance around and cook your food - whether it be meat on the barbeque, dough in a woodfired pizza oven or a even simple toasted marshmallow - is always enticing and exciting.
While fire is usually associated with the great outdoors, the Japanese do fire just like they do anything else - with a sense of sophistication and perfection. Rengaya, hidden inconspicuously on the ground floor of an office block next to Greenwood Plaza in North Sydney, is a restaurant that exudes this air of humble elegance, in contrast with the swathe of tall buildings that surround it.

The dining space is separated into two main areas by wooden beams and sheer white screens, emulating the atmosphere of a serene Japanese home. The main area is home to long, communal tables perfect for larger groups, while the second space has a more intimate feel.

I was invited to dine at Rengaya thanks to Washoku Lovers. The menu is built around premium meats, seafood and the humble grill. A large portion is centered around a fifteen-plus strong selection of 9+ grade wagyu, from loin, rib and rump to 'amble' cuts like tripe and intestine. If wagyu doesn't float your boat, then perhaps try the pork shabu shabu, milk-fed rack of lamb, or pick and choose from the wide array of vegetables to grill on the BBQ. Cooler weather calls for steaming pots of sukiyaki and shabu-shabu, and hints of Korean cuisine are evident in small selection of side dishes like kimchi, hearty soups and bibimba grilled stone pots.

Every table has an individual free-standing grill embedded into it, which is monitored by skilled waiters who brush from table to table with headsets in their ears. The cooking, however, is left for you to do all on your own. The hands-on approach is all part of the fun.

 Entrée fish sashimi ($19.90)
Although this is a yakiniku restaurant, sashimi is done very well too, with unusual items like live lobster and scampi to high-quality wagyu sashimi served tartar-style as YukkeThe freshest cuts of salmon, tuna and kingfish sashimi are laid alongside nests of fresh seaweed and a pearly oyster.

Salmon and avocado salad ($18.90)
Don't be fooled by the name, this is no ordinary salad. An injection of Japanese finesse is evident in the perfect rounds of avocado and garlicky sesame dressing. A blush-pink mound of diced salmon perches on top of bursts of sun-dried tomato.

Ox tail soup ($15.90)
Hearty and nourishing, this is rich in beef flavour and has a slick of chilli oil lining the surface for the optimum level of kick. Stringy, soft strands of pulled ox tail swim about with batons of sweet spring onion and mushroom.

Premium pork shabu shabu ($16.90)
Uber thin slices of fat-rimmed pork loin cook in no time at all. Dip into the sweet BBQ sauce and enjoy.

Premium Wagyu Amusement ($49.90)
Featuring two each of five specially selected cuts of wagyu - wagyu rib finger, rib, loin, oyster blade and ox tongue - this gives you the chance to try different parts of the beast if you can't decide which one to go for. Impeccably prepared and ready for the grill, choose from either BBQ sauce or salt and pepper as an accompaniment for the cooked meat.

Wagyu rib finger
Top this cut with a simple squeeze of lemon and enjoy blissfully as is; no other flavour is needed when the meat is as high quality and juicy as this is.

Wagyu rib
This is the fattiest of the five cuts, and as such is perhaps the most flavoursome. The pieces are a little chunkier than the others, and aren't quite as tender, however the piece is full of marbled flavour.

Oyster Blade
We think this is the most tender of the cuts in the amusement, although it is also quite lean.

Ox Tongue
Just because this could be considered a secondary cut doesn't mean that it is any less delicious. It has a distinctly chewier texture and rich, meaty flavour. 

Wagyu loin
The wagyu loin is, in our opinion, the best all-rounder of all the cuts. It has the perfect amount of marbling, thickness and tenderness, and is tasty without being too rich or fatty.

Radish Ponzu and Garlic Sauce ($3.50 each)
If that's not enough, there are also a number of sauces you choose to order to dip your meat into. We go for the radish ponzu and garlic sauce, the latter of which we are told is very popular. The garlic sauce is sweet, smoky and almost caramel-like, while the radish ponzu features a mound of radish snow towering in a pool of sharp, zingy ponzu vinegar with lots of spring onion.

Assorted Vegetables ($19.90)

Break up the meat fest with a plate of assorted vegetables, perfect for grilling in all of that residual meat flavour. We particularly enjoy the sweet okra fingers and meaty king brown mushroom. The add-on sauce here is a particularly good idea as it adds flavour and moisture to the veggies and ensures they don't go dry. For the more adventurous, there's even 'foil-yaki' garlic on the menu - whole cloves of garlic ready for the BBQ with a side of sesame oil or butter.

Yuzu-shu citrus sake with soda ($18.50)
A refreshing combination of sweet, sharp yuzu and mellow sake, this reminds me of an alcoholic lemon squash. As well as a dedicated sake section, there are also some intriguing hot cocktails and chu-hai cocktails.

The idea of cooking meat at your own table may sound like a chore to some, but it all adds a little fun to the dining experience. Although not for those who prefer something a little more wallet-friendly, Rengaya is all about a high quality standard of freshness, as well as a little bit of fire. 


I was lucky enough to dine thanks to Washoku Lovers, however all opinions are my own. 

Rengaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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