Since one of my favorite restaurants, Sunshine Cafe, has been closed for several months, I decided to visit Renga-Tei, a restaurant recommended on EatChicago. I compared the entire experience to Sunshine, I couldn't help myself so excuse me now for being biased and sentimental.
- Location: Renga-Tei is not as easily accessible for someone living in Uptown since Sunshine is in Andersonville and Renga-Tei is in Lincolnwood, but there is free parking. The area isn't one where you can take a leisurely walk down the street and peer into all the cool Andersonville boutiques. The noise of cars whizzing down Touhy drowns out conversation too. However, it is close to Long John Silver and Wholly Frijoles if you feel like doing a food crawl. It's also pretty close to the Chicago Cycle Center so I can work up an appetite there and then head over.
- Atmosphere: Renga is much larger and "nicer." That is, there are wooden booths with rice paper dividers and a bar, whereas Sunshine is one small room with tables and chairs. However, I miss the two jolly bear-like guys at Sunshine. It was always the two of them greeting everyone and taking orders. They were quick to make you feel welcome and at home. Renga-Tei is much more formal with several young perfectly nice waiters and waitresses but not much by way of character.
- Food: Renga-Tei serves actual sushi, which isn't really available at Sunshine. We ordered spicy tuna and salmon skin rolls, which were both good - although I would've liked more salmon skin and less rice in the latter maki. For the main course, I ordered my favorite Sunshine dish that I have been missing for months, Saba Shioyaki. Renga's was not as crispy and the delicate fish flavor and overpowered with the strong odor of sauteed vegetables. I much prefer the serving of cucumber salad that comes with the non-soggy mackerel at Sunshine. Marshall ordered the katsu-don, which was better, but floating in too much soup with the rice strangely in its own bowl rather than soaking up the egg and katsu flavor. Sunshine also doesn't usually have dessert, although I know people who have enjoyed free popsicles there. At Renga, we ordered a small serving of red bean ice cream to share, which was a delicious way to end the meal. At Sunshine, I usually strolled down to Taste of Heaven for baked goods instead.
- Price: Renga-Tei was much more expensive than Sunshine, so I will definitely come here less frequently than when I used to go to my old haunt. I hope your phone message is true Sunshine and that you will return from vacation soon!
I could've sworn I took more pictures at Sunshine, but I guess I was usually too busy eating. Here's one from 2005, when I celebrated my 30th birthday there.