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By Erina Starkey
April 12, 2017

Kenny Rens

Eat poké bowls, smoky meats and whisky cocktails on the site of a former sushi train.
By Erina Starkey
April 12, 2017

Looking for a sashimi place where you won't get a raw deal? Head to Kenny Rens in Woollahra, a sexy new Japanese restaurant and whisky bar, perfect for a romantic rendezvous, intimate dinner, or basically any time when supermarket sushi just won't cut it.

Like possibly all the patrons here, we were lured in from across the street; at Kenny Rens the sweet smoky smell of barbecued meat is more intoxicating than Chanel No. 5. The venue itself is small and stylish in monochrome with charred timber details. There's a pink stone sashimi bar at the front for lunchtime Hawaiian poke bowls, that will have every man, woman and child wanting one. Both a poke bowl and a pink bar.

Headed up by Henderson Liu (Ex- Coogee Pavilion, Fish Face) the menu serves Japanese classics — most of the dishes you will already know — along with a few twists and surprises along the way.

Start by priming your palate with the mixed sashimi platter ($22-26), which features glistening slivers of salmon, tuna, kingfish and red bream so fresh it could be still flapping. Each slice is twisted into rosettes and served alongside a nest of pickled ginger, carrot butterflies and curls of beetroot.

The specialty here is food cooked on the robata, a centuries-old type of Japanese barbecue in which meats are slow-grilled over hot charcoal. The yakitori skewers ($14), painted in sugary soy, are juicy and crisp, while the wagyu beef marble score seven ($65 for 200 grams) melts in the mouth like butter. The sesame sauce it's served with should be retained and poured over all the things.

Japanese restaurants rarely do good desserts (that is, unless you like pureed red beans — no judgment). However, that's not the case at Kenny Rens. There are just two desserts to choose from: a yuzu pannacotta with seasonal fruit and strawberry crumble ($15), and a black sesame crème brûlée sprinkled with matcha green tea, rose petals and served with halved figs ($15). The brûlée, while not orthodox, is worth changing religions for — its silky smooth texture and rich flavour will easily satisfy two.

If you thought the food menu was impressive, wait until you see the drinks. Much like the edibles, smoky Japanese flavours take centre stage, in the form of whisky; the gang's all here, from Mars Iwai, Nikka From the Barrel and Nikka Taketsuru, to Suntory's Kakubin, Hakushu, Hibiki and Yamazaki. Purists will prefer to drink them neat, however the cocktail list treats them with the utmost respect. It's the perfect Japanese stereotype.

If you're here for a tipple on a chill evening, the Fire Demon ($24) will warm you from the inside out with its unique blend of Suntory Hibiki, blood orange, agave and jalapeños. For all other possible scenarios, go the Deep Purple ($18), a syrupy concoction of fresh blackberries, plums, mint, Cointreau and Nikka From the barrel whisky.  

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