Chinese Tapas Renge
Be careful when you see a bowl in a magazine. Let me rephrase. Be careful if you see a bowl in a fashion magazine.
Sometime last year I picked up a copy of UOMO, a fashion magazine whose target audience is men in their 30s who have stylish handbags. I'm in my 30s, and I have a few stylish handbags, but the magazine had a nice feature about tantanmen shops in Tokyo that I was more interested in. Keep in mind that tantanmen is often served not at specialty noodle shops, but at your run-of-the-mill Chinese eatery as well. High-end Chinese spots also tend to serve up bowls.
There was no indication in the magazine of what category Renge fell into.
When I rolled in, solo, the staff looked at me like I was in the wrong place. Sure, the color of my skin and my uncommon height often do this in Japan, but this time it was the solo part. This is totally a date restaurant.
Bring a date, order some wine, and gorge on tasty Chinese-style tapas. Japan has a whole category of food that is akin to tapas; izakaya. For this reason, the concept of small plates served with the intent to drink isn't as magical as it felt back in America.
I ordered the XO ramen, the cheapest one on the menu at 1800 yen. The tantanmen was for some reason something like 3000 yen. There was also a Shanghai hairy crab ramen for just shy of 5000 yen. I was quietly informed that this is a tapas restaurant, and I need to first order some appetizers and drinks. The photo above is my five-piece set (the three-piece set is only for couples, I was also informed). Some olives, pickles, Shanghai sausage, chicken with house-blend spice, and fried wonton.
Then came the ramen. About half the size of a standard bowl, it was . . . refreshing. This XO sauce tinted pork topping added a nice layer on top of the consomme broth. Very basic, it definitely brought me back to the simplicity of noodles in Hong Kong. Noodles that cost about a dollar (in Hong Kong).
Which brings me to my conclusion. Though a nice, tasty snack, the bill of 4700 yen (over $50) for this was a bit too much.
I have a short list of high-end Chinese places that serve noodles, but I'll do my preparation in the future to avoid another surprise.
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Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-12-1
Closest station: Shinjuku