Let's talk about katsu, a thick slab of pork fillet, crumbed and deep-fried into one helluva juicy schnitzel. The Japanese love katsu so much, they put it between two slabs of fluffy white bread and call it a katsu sando. Katsu sandos aren't easy to find in Sydney which is probably why they're walking out the door at the newly opened Cafe Oratnek in Redfern, headed up by Bills Darlinghurst ex-head chef, Kenny Takayama.
Cake display counter
Cafe Oratnek only opened on July 20, but on Saturday - only its sixth day of trade - the kitchen was forced to close early after literally running empty on food. Locals have taken to this Japanese fusion cafe like ducks to water.
Quince ripening on the counter for future desserts
The breakfast menu runs all day. A separate lunch menu kicks in at 11.30am. Breakfast is all about things on toast: smashed avocado; honey caramelised figs; wild mushrooms with miso butter; jamon serrano with mashed green peas; or vine tomatoes with cucumber, goats cheese and house made chilli jam. Hipsters can settle in with chia and quinoa porridge pots with almond milk. Everyone else can hang loose with bacon and free range egg rolls and banana loaf with caramel butter.
Cake of the day $4.50
In the display cabinet at the front is a range of cakes, brownies and slices made daily.
Banana loaf served with caramel butter $5.50
The Japanese influences are more evident in the lunch time menu, like the salad with daikon and wild mushroom or the hot dishes of miso bbq boneless beef short ribs, sake steamed clams and a Japanese slow cooked lamb casserole.
Piccolo latte $3.50
Coffee beans are supplied by Mecca. Tea is by Mariage Freres. An alcohol licence means you can settle in with a beer (Asahi, Sapporo or 4 Pines Hefeweizen at $8-$9) or a glass of wine ($8-$10).
Matcha latte $4.90 large
The matcha latte I ordered was very much on the weak side, but staff did mention this was the first one they'd served and took my feedback on with eagerness. Non-caffeinated drinks include housemade lemonade and ginger beers, thickshakes and a mint and cucumber soda detox.
Indoor dining area
The interior of the cafe is completely on-trend with subway tiles, wooden school chairs and an open counter. On a mild winter's day, it's worth sitting in the leafy front courtyard. Outdoor gas heaters will keep you toasty if the temperature dips.
Fire grilled capsicum, feta, shallots, herbs, tomato stew and sourdough $16
The kitchen pumps out an impressive selection of hot meals. The fire grilled capsicum and tomato stew is the perfect bowl of warmth on a mild winter's day. Thick strips of smoky and tender capsicum mingle with soft and squidgy tomato wedges. Its one big umami bomb, lifted by pops of feta and a scattering of fresh herbs. A chargrilled slice of Brickfields sourdough helps you mop up all the sauce.
Pork fillet katsu sandwich and Japanese fried chicken sandwich
There are currently three sandwiches on the menu: pork fillet katsu, smashed egg and Japanese fried chicken, each at a wallet-friendly ten bucks. I could have done without the oversized chopping boards though, impinging on table real estate as well as making my sandwich look smaller.
Japanese fried chicken sandwich with kimchi mayo $10
The Japanese fried chicken has less batter than you'd expect, but there's a welcome zinginess from the marinade. The chicken thigh fillet is plump and juicy, with a light crunch at the edges. It's sandwiched into a soft bun with cabbage kimchi and kimchi mayo.
Pork fillet katsu with cabbage, Japanese BBQ sauce and mustard $10
And their pork fillet katsu sandwiches are so popular they're doing a roaring trade in takeaway lunches. The katsu sando yields a hefty slab of impressively tender crumbed pork fillet, sauced up with Japanese tonkatsu fruity barbecue sauce and horseradish mustard. A generous amount of raw shredded cabbage provides bonus points on the healthiness scale.
The crusts are cut off, just like they do in Japan, leaving you with a thick pillow of fluffy white bread (also from Brickfields) contrasting against the gentle crunch of the pork katsu.
Stepladder pot plants
And what does Oratnek mean? If you haven't already worked it out, it's Kenny Takayama's first name in reverse: Kentaro.
4 Pitt Street, Redfern, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8065 4625
Monday to Saturday 7am-4pm
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7/27/2015 12:55:00 am