Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Fri 13 Oct 2006

As tasty as the Korean Air food was it was also fantastic to hit Sydney and eat some 'proper' food!

There'd been a bit of discussion about where we'd go for dinner. As I was catching up with some university friends who live in Sydney the emphasis was very much on 'conviviality'. We did actually toy with the idea of going to Tetsuya's. However, the meal coordinator suggested against it, saying that he personally thought it was overpriced and not quite relaxed enough.

So we ended up at Rengaya, a yakiniku restaurant in north Sydney. Something that very definitely isn't on the tourist trail! Since we were there with two Japanese people and two Japanophiles we didn't even have to entertain the thought of looking at the menu. Amidst the flurry of Japanese that went into the ordering process, we just settled back with our Asahis and waited for the food to arrive.

And when it did arrive, it came in something of a deluge! We started with large plates of sashimi: salmon, kingfish, squid and, of course, tuna. I was informed that the wasabi at Rengaya is the real deal: freshly grated rather than reconstituted from dried. We only received a tiny amount (when divided by six) with the sashimi and we at least tripled the order, so our fish experience was replete with the nose-tingling associated with a good mustardy hit.

Fish devoured we then moved on to the beef. Not just beef but F-1 Black Wagyu. Rengaya is a restaurant which takes its beef VERY seriously - to the extent that even in the ladies' loo there is a poster with a description of F-1 Black Wagyu, and a cow with all the different cuts shown. Wagyu beef comes from cows which are treated EXTREMELY well and is possibly one of the best adverts available for animal welfare in farming.

When you order your beef you order different cuts. I wasn't involved in the ordering process, content just to let the huge plates of beef arrive at the table, the wafer thin slices ready to be cooked on the table top grills. Even though I didn't know which cut of beef I was eating two things were amazing. First, the difference in marbling between different parts of the cow was quite noticeable. This isn't something I normally get to appreciate, as I am normally sitting down to a piece of rump/sirloin/fillet, rather than a whole smorgasbord of beef. Secondly, this beef is so rich, fatty and luscious that even the tiny slices that were really solidly BBQed on our table were still incredibly moist and tasty.

It seemed like plate after plate of beef arrived, and we just ate and ate and ate. It was absolutely incredible and delicious. And has quite possibly shot to the top of my last meal on earth list. I'm not sure I can do justice to the experience. It was brilliant - and if you've never eaten really excellent, solidly marbled, dripping with fat, tender beef - I recommend you seek some out now! I've had wagyu before: usually 'just' as a piece of it, where it makes exceptionally good eating, but doesn't create a whole new experience.

After the sheer gluttony of the main courses, we couldn't even face considering dessert without a little break. By the time we did order dessert, I conceded defeat. That is, until one of our party ordered black sesame seed ice cream. And so I had to have a little taste. And then I had a little taste of the green tea ice cream. And then I ate half of the black sesame seed ice cream.

Now, the person who ordered the black sesame seed ice cream has a rich history of people eating his dessert, so when he wandered off to inspect the sake collection, dessert untouched and unguarded, did he really expect it to remain in tact? Black sesame seed ice cream is, as I found out, delicious, and as soon as I can convince my housemate that extra kitchen equipment is a good idea, I shall make some and see what happens.

While I was eating someone else's dessert, the dessert's owner was busy ordering some sake. We'd been drinking Asahi and warm sake throughout the meal, but now, with our palates jaded by excessive food and alcohol, it was a good idea to order some premium (well, more expensive at least) cold sake. The chosen one was Kubota - and even at that stage of the evening you could tell that it was in a different league from the warm sake. Although, I do think that, at some stage, a structured sake tasting would be an excellent idea.

We rolled out of the restaurant after about 5 hours - totally full, sated and satisfied. And our wallets were only around $AU100 per head lighter. For those of us used to dining in the UK, this was a ludicrous bargain - even though one of our hosts expressed surprise. On a more moderate evening one can get away with spending between $75 and $80 per head!

1. Rengaya, 73 Miller Street, North Sydney, NSW, 2060, phone 02 9929 6169.
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