If you think of Rengaya as a wagyu specialist, and design your meal around beef, you certainly won’t leave disappointed. Take your mouth on a journey through eight different textures of beef, starting with Premium Wagyu ‘Yukke’ ($33.80). 'Yukke' is the Japanese spelling of the Korean raw dish ‘yukhoe’, and combines premium grade beef tartar with a mix of egg yolk, sesame oil, garlic and finely chopped shallots that ensures it slides down your throat.
For something a little more toothsome, Premium Wagyu Beef Sashimi ($23.90/6 pieces) is the perfect way to examine the grade 9+ wagyu’s fat marbling and flavour, against a smear of freshly grated wasabi and soy.
It’s also the perfect excuse to crack into quality sake, like the pretty Kuromatsu Hakushika Gouka Sennenjyu Junmai Daiginjyo ($43/300ml).
Refresh your palate with a couple of Korean vegetable selections: Assorted Kimchi ($9.90) and Namuru ($9.90) of blanched, seasoned and dressed vegetables, both work nicely to prepare your palate for the meat onslaught. A Koshihikari Echigo Beer ($13.50/500ml), originating from rice grown in the same Niigata prefecture of Japan as the sake I mentioned earlier, wouldn’t go astray.
You cook your wagyu on a special barbeque inlaid within each table. It’s ringed by clever ventilation holes, which effectively pull the smoke away before it’s even had a chance to infuse your clothes and hair. The absence of overhead extractor fans allows the dining room’s screened wooden surrounds to remain quite elegant. Rengaya is decorated in a very traditional Japanese fashion, similar to CBD icon Azuma. Both venues work hard to belie their Sydney office tower locations, transporting diners with a mini Japanese vacation that doesn’t require time off work.
Being a first-time visitor – something I’m quite ashamed of, as this restaurant has been around since 1993 – I headed straight for the Premium Wagyu Amusement ($49.90). This beautifully presented assortment of beef showcases five different cuts of wagyu, starting with thick-cut slices of wagyu ox tongue. All it wants is to be rolled in freshly squeezed lemon juice, and it will likely be your gateway to wanting to eat more of this delicious secondary cut.
Traverse your way up the marbling scale, from oyster blade that’s so tender you just need to give it a little nip, to strip loin that dissolves into a juicy, fat-drenched explosion when pressed between tongue and roof of mouth.
Keep your canines happy with more toothsome cubes of wagyu rib finger, drawn from the super-tasty muscles between the ribs.
Punctuate everything with sake and King Brown Mushrooms ($9.90) that shine on the grill with a simple flip.
The key difference between Japanese and Korean BBQ is that Korean BBQ is generally marinated, while Japanese BBQ focuses on the simplicity of a premium cut. Now that’s not to say you can’t enjoy Japanese BBQ it with sauces, ranging from a compelling Garlic Sauce ($3.50) that went with everything, particularly the wagyu rib, to vinegar based Radish Ponzu ($3.50) designed to cut the fat.
You’ll also find a richer Sesame Sauce ($3.50) that sings against thin slices of Premium Pork Rib ($15.90), and a free house-BBQ that can be applied to pretty much anything you want.
Filling carbohydrates are traditionally served at the end of a Japanese meal, after sating your taste buds on the more glamorous proteins. The Yukke Bibimbap ($19.90) gives you your final texture of this wonderful wagyu beef, teaming the raw version you had earlier with rice, vegetables and seaweed, in a super heated stone bowl. Stir it through with sweet and spicy miso paste (use it all, it’s great) for the final stage of your beef adventure, that has traversed your way from raw, through medium-rare BBQ, to something that the searing earthenware bowl ensures is fully cooked.
NOTE: If you love Japanese cuisine as much as I do, become a member of Washoku Lovers (for free) and receive Premium Beef Rib (2 pieces) & Premium Beef Loin (2 pieces) for $28 (worth $35) when you dine: http://www.washokulovers.com/
73 Miller Street, North Sydney
Ph: (02) 9929 6169