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Feb 2005
Issue 057

Out now!

Haute Japanese cuisine

Renya, Nishi-Shinsaibashi

Looking for a change from the usual rowdy banter of izakaya? Had enough of slumming it with bog-standard eat-and-drink-all-you-can menus?

Renya offers an alternative dining experience, nouvelle Japanese cuisine. Are you already scrunching your nose up at images of tiny portions of eye-catching food decorated to perfection on oversized plates? Well, you'd be right about the creative beauty of it all, but get rid of the idea that nouvelle cuisine will just leave you craving a Big Mac at the end of dinner.

Situated just West of Midosuji (turn left after OPA), Renya is an elegant, unique establishment that you may be forgiven for strolling straight past without a second glance; it's almost hidden!

But once you stick your head around the door, you'll be absorbed in the tranquility and class, which is summed up by the mini Japanese garden with a prominent lotus flower theme leading to a board announcing those customers with reservations (a nice touch if you're hoping to impress your date!).

Once inside and your name is called, you will be led to your table by a member of staff — all of whom are aptly dressed in traditional Japanese kimono. Depending on where your table is, you may want to do a Hansel and Gretel re-make and drop some crumbs on the floor to ensure your safe return from the toilet — this place is deceivingly massive.

If you're seated downstairs in the central part of the restaurant, you'll only see the half of it, but that's not to say you've been robbed.

The central section is perfect for small groups and buzzes with the fancy surroundings ... floor-to-ceiling mirrors, modern-day chandeliers and a recurring ornamental lotus theme. For larger groups or those couples craving a more intimate atmosphere, there are private rooms upstairs. Here you'll also have a chance to see a few of the chefs at work, which is always a sign of good, honest taste.

About that ubiquitous lotus: it is the only plant known to fruit and flower simultaneously and symbolizes the manifestation of the Universal Buddha Nature, representing the pure, natural essence of the individual.

So onto more material subjects: the menu, and what's hot and what's not? Well, it may not all be hot, but I'm only talking temperatures here! You'll be hard-pushed to justly criticize this fine array of Euro-Asian dishes. Despite Renya being an obvious cut above regular izakaya or Western restaurants, it does offer something for everyone (eg, spaghetti, salads, sashimi, sushi and lots of other food not beginning with the letter s), but it is the attention to detail that makes dining here a new experience. The chopsticks tied with bamboo leaves, the pieces of fruit, flowers and leaves decoratively placed among the food, the sauce droplets and herb sprinklings measured to precision, even the crockery itself exudes sophistication.

The menu is extensive (an English version is available upon request) and most dishes are priced around ¥600 to ¥800, and beers, wines, and cocktails are priced at around ¥500. Nouvelle cuisine is famed for its beauty as opposed to its quantity, but Renya may just reshape your opinion of the French culinary invention. Once you've passed the "It's just too good to eat" part, these dishes are surprisingly filling. Maybe it's the philosophy that less is actually more.

Set menus are available, but for a good variety of dishes (and just a chance to see the full menu), keep your options open. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends and for the record, Renya also has restaurants in Kyobashi, Takatsuki and Fukushima and regularly advertises in Hot Pepper magazine. So is it just a matter of time before you join the haute cuisine elite and introduce your taste buds to some fine art? Not so much "When will you...?", but rather "Ren will ya?"

1-10-14 Nishi-Shinsaibashi
Chuoku Osaka
Open: Lunch 11:30-15:00, Dinner 17:00-24:00 (23:00 on Sun & Holiday)
Tel: 06-6120-5350

Text: Nicky Siddall • Photos: Taka Kataoka


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