Categories
Café Japanese

Cafe Oratnek – Redfern NSW Restaurant Review

I first visited Cafe Oratnek in May 2020, before this blog existed. The height of the COVID-19 pandemic back in May meant that Oratnek was open for takeaway only at that time, and it was not until very recently that I had an opportunity to have an eat-in meal.

The main stars of the Oratnek menu are basically the same as that at its sister store Kentaro, a mere 1.2km away. The wisdom of opening two of essentially the same cafe within a 15 minute walk of each is, in my opinion, questionable, however both establishments seem to have a healthy amount of patronage. If I were in their shoes I would have rather done a North-South thing like Cool Mac and Kurumac (though there’s a lot of competition for Japanese food North of the bridge), or even have opened up the second store in an affluent, Asian-centric area like Eastwood or Strathfield.

There is plenty of outdoor seating for the COVID-paranoid, but the lack of cover over the courtyard of this terrace-style house means that the sun is very much blaring and angry. Something to be aware – you might want to wear sunscreen.

Port Katsu Sandwich

Oratnek’s pork katsu sandwich ($16) is essentially the same as Kentaro’s – a thick pork cutlet, lightly battered and deep fried for a juicy, tender outcome sandwiched between Japanese bread, cabbage, and mustard. Compared to Kentaro’s I think that Oratnek’s is not as oversauced and has more cabbage, but I’m not sure which one I prefer more. Both are delicious.

On my second visit to Oratnek I recommended the pork katsu sandwich, a known quantity, to my senior intensive care colleague and ordered myself the Salmon Rillettes & Legumes On Toast ($16.50). Unfortunately for me I didn’t really realise just how much legume would be involved. There was really only a smattering of salmon rillette, which in my opinion wasn’t quite enough for the thick toast. The sheer greenery and legumery was overpowering, and I found it a marathon to finish all of the crisp legumes provided to me. While some Japanese chefs may have earned the title “Legume Magician”, I would hesitate to offer this title to Oratnek based on what was presented here. Given the weighted composition of the dish I would more readily recommend it to a vegan rather than someone with no dietary restrictions.

Matcha Brownie

The matcha brownie is yum. A little bit bitter, sweet but not too sweet.

The mentaiko linguine ($22) I had back in May was the first time I had had mentaiko anything in Australia. The mentaiko topping was creamy, and enough to coat all the strands of pasta. I really enjoyed this dish, however after the past six months of tastemaker development I now consider this to be a bit overpriced. Cod roe is readily found at Asian grocery stores and isn’t that expensive.

The Kobe Hayashi Rice ($23) I didn’t really enjoy. It may very well have been the travel time, though the lukewarm onion beefiness was quite disappointing to me. Reasonable to try again fresh.

My partner enjoyed the Classic Omurice ($20 – no pictures) but hilariously told me that she didn’t think it was quite a classic, authentic omurice (not knowing the name of the dish).

VERDICT
Oratnek and Kentaro have the best pork katsu sandwiches I’ve ever had in Australia. In that sense they offer something special and are worth paying a visit to. A few of their other dishes are a bit hit and miss, but it’s likely that you will find something else you like in Oratnek’s diverse Japanese menu.

A recommendation. Bring a hat.

Cafe Oratnek
4 Pitt St, Redfern NSW 2016
(02) 8394 9550

Categories
Café Middle Eastern

Kepos Street Kitchen – Redfern NSW Cafe Review

Kepos Street Kitchen came highly recommended by a vegetarian colleague of ours. Naturally we went without him to share a meat-heavy meal before a swing at nearby Moore Park.

The Charred broccolini salad, shredded chicken, coarse burghul, herbs ($18) was delicious. As a group we are not the biggest fans of salad, but all members of our party ended up enjoying it. There is a surprisingly generous amount of chicken tucked in with all the greens and grains.

The Burrata cheese, Persian eggplant, pine nuts, volcanic salt ($22) was pretty good. The cheese was firm on the outside and less firm on the inside, as expected. The real star of this dish was the crusty, freshly toasted bread. Delicious.

The Grilled prawns, chermoula, grilled lemon ($27) came with five prawns. The prawns were quite large and tasty, and the lemon was too (though I was tricked by a colleague into an entire quarter of the lemon pictured in one mouthful by itself). I’m still trying to come to terms with paying $5.40 per prawn though.

Kepos meatball sub, coriander paste, grated haloumi, ciabatta ($18) was very good. Plenty of meat and red sauce on crusty warm bread. Very yum and a good serving of meat. A strong recommendation for this one.

The Arayes pita of wagyu mince seasoned with parsley, onion, olive oil, cumin and paprika, chili tomato salad, tahini, pita ($18) started off good, however quickly we found it to be too flavourful and too saucy. You will recognise this complaint of “too tasty” from many of my reviews, and in this case you can rest assured that this was a view that was held by the majority of our group. I would not recommend Kepos Street Kitchen’s Arayes pita.

Pictured here is a half serve of chips, which were provided complimentary as they had forgotten to make our chips. Even this half serving was quite a lot of chips. The chips were fresh and fluffy on the inside, with a cripsy exterior. They may just be the best hot chips I’ve had in a long long time. There’s definitely something special going on, owing perhaps to a proprietary cooking method. At $7 (for twice the chips listed) I would give them a go.

Overall

Pretty much everything we had hit the spot. I can recommend.

5/5

Kepos Street Kitchen
96 Kepos St, Redfern NSW 2016
(02) 9319 3919

Categories
Asian Fusion Café Chinese Latin American

Three Williams – Redfern NSW Cafe Review

While the name of Paddington’s Ten William cafe indicates its address, Three Williams in Redfern is not so straightforward. Situated in a dimly-lit semi-basement space on Elizabeth St in Redfern, Three Williams is named not after something with any contemporary relevance, but rather after three dead white men who already have plenty of things named after them – including entire suburbs.

The ceviche ($25) was a tangy bowl of tiger prawns, sashimi kingfish, pickled red onions, roast tomato, coriander, charred corn, lime & avocado, baby cos served with blue corn tortillas. I first heard of the term ceviche back in 2009, during the season six premiere of Grey’s Anatomy. Ceviche was the nickname lovingly bestowed upon a trauma patient with multiple water-sport related traumatic amputations, and while I learned nothing of medicine from this show it gave me a step up in being able to pronounce the name of this dish when ordering it (something my partner could not). Having never had ceviche I didn’t really know what to expect from this dish. It was certainly quite tangy and citrusy, however I didn’t quite like how soupy it was – and I wasn’t sure if I was meant to drink the soup or just use it as sauce. The blue corn tortillas (though more visually brown) were actually quite nice, and maintained their structural integrity well despite being semi-soaked in this juice. It was probably a fine dish but not one I’d order again.

Peking Duck Pasta

I thought Three Williams’ Peking Duck Pasta ($28) with angel hair pasta, chilli, coriander, onion crumb and shallots was really special. Every strand of pasta was perfectly coated in delicious sauce, and every mouthful full of umami flavours. I was initially quite skeptical about ordering a peking duck based dish from a restaurant that’s not expressly Chinese, but my partner wanted to try it and we were handsomely rewarded. I can definitely recommend this. It was delicious.

Chicken Katsu

This piece of chicken katsu ($6.50) was quite bad. The chicken meat was very thin and dry. The product was more batter than chicken, and probably some of the worst chicken katsu I’ve had the displeasure of eating.

The coffee was from Single O. The strawberry mimosa was cheap at $11 but not great.

VERDICT
It’s not everywhere that you can get hearty, complex meals for breakfast, and I really appreciate a cafe with a substantial all-day menu. Ample parking outside the restaurant makes Three Williams a pain free dining experience.

Four Williams out of five

Three Williams
613A Elizabeth St, Redfern NSW 2016
(02) 9698 1111