I LOVE RENGA-TEI! Renga-Tei is an old school Japanese restaurant that caters to Japanese, Japanese Americans (niseis, sanseis, etc. meaning 2nd generation, 3rd generation, etc.) and to the general American public. I first heard about Renga-Tei from some good friends of mine and almost at ONCE, I dragged BE over to ‘check it out.’ Ever since that fateful meal, we have always counted on Renga-Tei to be among the most reliable Japanese restaurants in the Chicago land area. Reliable as in the sushi quality is very decent, their range of home style Japanese dishes is wonderful and is a part of the Japanese/Japanese American community in Chicago. As in, you know how Italian families get together at their favorite Italian community restaurant with their friends and families? Renga-Tei is among the few restaurants that you may see Japanese/Japanese American families come out of the woodwork for a grand get together. It’s a great sign to see Japanese people at a Japanese restaurant, just FYI.
So BE and I decided one day to head over to Renga-Tei to eat some serious lunch one day. When we entered, I saw this awesome lunch special of the Bara Chirashi Set and decided that I had to get it.
I ordered kaki fry (fried oysters) as an appetizer and these were pretty decent. The oysters were pretty big, juicy and well battered. I was excited to see the spicy mustard on the plate to accompany the kaki fry. Just like tonkatsu, you take the lemon, squeeze it over the oysters, then take a kaki fry, dip it a bit with the spicy mustard and dip into the sauce that accompanies the dish. The sauce is a general katsu brown sauce, but is very tasty. Don’t forget to eat the shredded cbbage that accompanies the kaki fry with some of the katsu sauce, it’s really good!
If my memory serves me right, BE got the lunch time sashimi set. Doesn’t it look really nice? I like the delicate touches on the salmon wrapped with thinly slice lemons, the maguro (tuna) with a background of shiso (perilla) leaves and the wasabi shaped into a leaf. Aesthetically pleasing and delicious to boot! BE was very pleased with his set and plowed through his meal in no time.
Here’s my Bara Chirashi set with miso soup on the side. It may seem odd that miso soup is served with my entree, but did you know that miso soup is supposed to served with your main entree? Miso soup being served before your entree is an American way of eating your meal. In Japan, your miso soup, bowl of rice and entree are all served together because they are meant to be eaten together as a meal.
This is the top part of the Bara Chirashi set. There are 2 pieces of tuna, 1 piece of hirame, 1 piece of salmon, 1 piece of hamachi, seaweed salad, edamame, and a little jello dessert! I love these bento box sets because there’s usually a little dessert included! AND SO MUCH STUFF! 🙂 I love how there’s some shiso next to the maguro as the taste of maguro (tuna) and shiso (perilla) together tastes wonderful.
When you lift the top part of the bento box off, you’ll find even more goodies on the second tier! Laid over a bed of sushi rice has ebi (shrimp), tako (octopus), hokkigai (surf clam), tamago (sweet omelet), slivers of string bean (?), pickled shredded yellow daikon (?) and some hot pink sweet furikake-ish looking decor. I really loved the hot pink furikake over the sushi rice as it helped to cut through the rich taste of the sashimi I was eating in between bites. It doesn’t look like a lot of food, but when you eat everything together with sips of miso soup, bites of sashimi and sushi rice, you’ll find yourself getting full pretty quickly!
After stuffing myself with all the foodstuffs, I ate my mini dessert. I believe it was an ume (plum) flavored jello. I love the little spoon that it came with. So small, but so tasty.
As an indulgence, we also ordered coffee jelly. It comes in a sugar rimmed bowl with cream on top. Why is that? Well, don’t you have cream with your coffee? 🙂 When you cut into the jello, the cream also mixes into the jello along with bits of the sugar to give a light coffee-cream-sugar jello taste.
And of course, with your coffee you should have a matcha cookie! For a dessert, it has a lot of thought put into its creation.
We also ordered their Tokyo Lime Cheesecake, which I think is made in-house and always comes with an assortment of sliced fruits and a mixture of two sweet sauces. I think the 2 sauces were berry and kiwi tasting, but I could be wrong. They were delicious nonetheless. The cheesecake was light tasting and not heavy at all, which is the Japanese way of making sweets. The fruit accompaniment is there because in Japan, fruit is considered expensive and a luxury! So if you have a dessert with fruit, it’s sure to be a wonderful ending to your meal. They took great pains to peel and cut up some of the fruit that was plated and it was quite thoughtful of them.
Just FYI, these two desserts are the kinds of desserts that people with very Japanese tastes would order. And to get into more cultural nuances, I’ve heard of people complaining that the waitstaff was rude to customers. The way most waitstaff approach people is with a Japanese approach and is not ‘rude.’ Many are bilingual, with English being their second language so they may come across as rude, but they’re not. Fuse the English language with Japanese body language and it may culturally confuse people who are not familiar this kind of restaurant etiquette. If you really want to express your thanks for the meal, thank the staff by saying “Gochisosama-deshita!” You’ll want to aim your thanks at the sushi counter on your way out because the owner will most likely be working the sushi counter. 🙂
3956 W. Touhy Ave
Lincolnwood, IL 60712