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 of – you might want to wear sunscreen.
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.
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).
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.
4 Pitt St, Redfern NSW 2016
(02) 8394 9550