Cafe Oratnek, Redfern

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Japanese food is one of my favourite cuisines. It’s fresh, tasty and healthy; full of pure, delicate but sophisticated flavours. When you integrate it into Sydney’s booming café culture, you get what I would consider to be the holy grail of culinary creation.

Tucked away in the suburbia of Redfern, not too far away from Cleveland Street and Prince Alfred Park, Cafe Oratnek has already gained a cult following despite only opening two short weeks ago. The man behind this homely space is Kenny Takayama, whom the café is named after (Oratnek is Kentaro in reverse! Ha!).

Part of the draw is the Asian-influenced menu, with drool-worthy an already iconic items such as pork katsu sandwich, served on thick white bread as the Japanese do, and miso beef short ribs, among other dishes.

Nestled in a converted terrace house and marked by a cute chalkboard on the footpath, the front courtyard of Café Oratnek blooms cheerful flowers and a fresh herb bed. The interior is clean and minimalist, with white tiled walls, polished wooden tables and powder blue accents.

Judging from Helen and Raff's posts, the café seems set to become the hottest new culinary venture that will have all flocking to sample their delicious fusion fare. Although weekends seem to be popular, we come on a quiet weekday morning to try the breakfast menu, which has traditional dishes such as a bacon and egg roll, as well as more quirky options like chilli jam, cucumber and goats cheese on toast and a chia and quinoa porridge pot. Japanese-infused sides include a tempting kombu cured salmon and grilled ham steak.

Berry, pomegranate and mint iced tea ($6) and orange juice ($6)

Iced tea is fragrant and strong, an alluring deep violet colour with fresh berries bobbing around among sprigs of mint. It arrives in an artful sugar-rimmed glass. Freshly squeezed orange juice is cloudy and refreshing, full of the sweet goodness of nourishing Vitamin C. My dining companion says ‘it tastes just like my Grandma’s’. 

Sautéed mix of wild mushrooms, miso, butter, goats cheese, herbs ($13)

I’ve heard amazing things about this wild mushroom toast, and they were justified the moment we got a taste of those pungent, earthy mushrooms. Although there’s a sprinkle of chilli garnishing the top, it’s not hot in a spicy way– rather, the tangy goats cheese melds with the slippery, chewy mushrooms to create an umami, knee-weakening mouthful of flavours. Each mushroom variety – oyster, field, button – has its own unique texture, making every mouthful different to the previous. Thick, charred Brickfields sourdough is the perfect vehicle for the topping. It’s a Japanese twist on conventional mushrooms on toast, executed in a way that pleases both the eyes and the palette, with delicate hints of miso and the rounded flavour of butter.

Mashed green peas, jamon serrano, broad beans, spinach, kale, pecorino ($13)

Another toast option on the same wonderful sourdough, a tumble of wholesome raw kale, baby spinach, blanched broad beans and peas are paired with smoky Serrano Jamon and a light oil dressing. It has a bright, lively look and taste about it - an almost salad-like topping. A shaving of pecorino provides a soft, tangy contrast to the flavoursome Jamon ribbons. This is more of a bruschetta-style topping, not as comforting nor full-flavoured as the mushrooms but delicious in a fresh, healthy way. 

Turmeric edamame and cauliflower ($6)

Fluorescent, yellow-stained cauliflower florets, cucumber and daikon batons carry a burst of umami. Laced with chilli and hot mustard seeds, the vegetables are interspersed with pods of fresh edamame, and we love the textures of the vegetables which retain a pickle-like crunch. The flavours get quite strong near the bottom where the sauce puddles, but it’s a interesting, fulfilling, palette-cleansing side, although quite a small size.

With a range of delicious sweet treats baked fresh on the front counter and an equally tempting lunch menu - slow cooked Japanese curry or fried chicken, kimchi and mayo sandwich, anyone? - Cafe Oratnek brings the gentle, savoury flavours of Japan to Sydney's awaiting arms and stomachs. It's a promising new cafe to Redfern that will not disappoint on quality and flavour, and is definitely a place to revisit to sample that scrumptious looking pork katsu sandwich!


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  1. love the look of the jumble of mushrooms on your toast!

  2. This place has been appearing all over y feed recently. Definitely need to check it out

  3. I love the Japanese fusion flavors! The mushroom toast looks great. There lunch menu also has a few things I would really like to try out.

    1. I think it's their fusion menu that makes it so popular! Need to try the pork katsu sandwich from the lunch menu next time :)