If you work in the city, this cheap eat won’t be news to you but it’s such great food and value that I’ll risk preaching to the converted to inform those who haven’t been yet.
Renkon has three branches (CBD, Ponsonby, Parnell) but last night I caught up with a girlfriend in Parnell. It’s in a basement and is basic but somehow very welcoming at the same time. I think what helps is the open kitchen with clear views of smiling chefs. The wait staff are exceptionally cheerful too.
It was jam-packed for a Sunday night with a steady stream of people coming in for takeout so we decided to get our order in as soon as we could. We both are picky/sharey/tapas kind of girls so we opted for one donburi and three sides to share to maximise our tasting experience. Our total food bill came to $26 so even within a cheap eats budget you could get a lot more if you were hungrier.
It was all delicious and the service was prompt which suited us. We had the Chicken Misodare ($11.50) which was tender chicken with vegetables in a mildly spiced miso sauce. They even indulged our request for more veggies and less rice without a second thought. Other options from this part of the menu (all the same price) can be ordered on rice or udon noodles. I have always been a particular fan of the Teriyaki Salmon but there is a wealth of options including Karaage (fried chicken or salmon) Yakiniku (beef, pork or vege in a garlic sauce), Chilli, Tempura and Una-don (an eel dish) to name a few.
The sides we ordered were a Shimeji Mushroom Salad ($4.50), Agedashi Tofu ($5) and Teriyaki Salmon ($5) and they were all top notch. The salad was fresh lettuce with an assortment of carrot, radish, tomato, celery and spring onions all delicately sliced and tossed with the mushrooms and a gingery dressing with rice vinegar, mirin and soy flavours. The tofu was a favourite, coated in a delicate batter with a light warm dressing style sauce – the Japanese always seem to make deep-fried anything look less grease laden and calorific than our fish and chip equivalents! The Teriyaki Salmon side was just that, two pieces of perfectly cooked salmon with a not-too-sweet teriyaki marinade. Gorgeous.
There is a fairly compact wine list as well as sake and assorted local and Japanese beer. It’s not a place you go for fine wine but you’d definitely find something adequate to compliment your meal. We went with an Asahi on this occasion which worked just fine.
Having worked in Parnell and regularly frequented Renkon for lunch I can say that no matter when you go, the meals are of the same consistently high standard. Whether you go bits-and-pieces like us or whole meals on rice or noodles, you won’t be disappointed. Like many of our cheap eats, it’s not fancy but it is good portions of well-cooked food with great flavours and enough flourishes to look pretty too.