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Monday, July 27, 2015

Cafe Oratnek, Redfern

Katsuando pork fillet sandwich at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern

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 at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern
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 at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern
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 at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern
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 at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern
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 at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern
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 at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern
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 at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern
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 and tomato stew at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern
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.

Katsusando pork fillet sandwich and Japanese fried chicken sandwich at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern
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 at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern
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.

Katsuando pork fillet sandwich at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern
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 at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern
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.

Outdoor seating at Cafe Oratnek, Redfern

Click to add a blog post for Cafe Ortatnek on Zomato

Cafe Oratnek
4 Pitt Street, Redfern, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8065 4625

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 7am-4pm
Sunday 8am-4pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Redfern - House of Crabs
Redfern - Moon Park
Redfern - Three Williams
Redfern - Town Bike Pitstop

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13 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/27/2015 12:55:00 am


  • At 7/27/2015 5:21 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Whoa!!! kitchen closed early on Sat?! Not surprised, food is soooo damn awesome & coffee too. Need to return to try the pork katsu sandwich.

  • At 7/27/2015 9:52 am, Anonymous Bianca@forfoodssake said…

    Food looks great!! I work literally across the road and have been waiting patiently to see what would replace 'The Fern'. There were lines outside on Sunday, which is rather impressive. Can't wait to check them out.

  • At 7/27/2015 5:44 pm, Anonymous John | heneedsfood said…

    So much for me eventually getting to The Fern. I seriously snoozed on that one. Cute place! A little odd with those boards that aren't proportional to the food, but aside from that, a definite goer.

  • At 7/27/2015 10:18 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    woah katsu sandos in syd?! will have to check em out stat

  • At 7/27/2015 11:10 pm, Anonymous Von said…

    I've been salivating over pork katsu sandwiches all over instagram so yay! They have them in Sydney now! defs need to give this a try!

  • At 7/28/2015 3:07 pm, Blogger Nick Jordan said…

    They've early quite a few times actually.

  • At 7/29/2015 9:12 am, Anonymous Hotly Spiced said…

    My name spelt backwards is totally beyond pronouncing. I can't get over the sandwich! It looks fantastic and I like the contrast of the soft bread with the crunchy-coated pork xx

  • At 7/29/2015 9:48 am, Anonymous Amanda @lambsearsandhoney said…

    Certainly looks like delicious food - and that pork sando must be walking out the door. Actually, it sounds like it's all walking out the door - a little too quickly!

  • At 7/30/2015 9:32 am, Anonymous Brian Tam Food said…

    Yum! That pork fillet looks so juicy. Agree with you on the boards though... it's time for them to go!

  • At 7/30/2015 9:35 am, Blogger Maddie Loves Food said…

    I've heard great things about this cafe, especially the katsu sando and fried chicken sandwich! With that pillowy soft white bread, it reminds me of the many delicious sandwiches I had in Japan!

  • At 8/04/2015 12:16 am, Anonymous Gastronomous anonymous said…

    Def on my list of places to eat next time I'm in Sydney! That Katsu pork has my name on it!

  • At 8/06/2015 4:26 pm, Anonymous Isaac said…

    Hahah great review as per usual, Helen. What's funny is that I went a week after you and the matcha latte was super strong. They definitely took your feedback to heart.

  • At 8/22/2015 9:54 pm, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Read about these guys recently and wanted to try them out. Now really want to try them out! The Katsu sandwich looks so yum.


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