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Published April 24th 2017
Blend of Cultures
If you adore your Japanese meals and green tea-themed desserts, chances are you probably heard of Cafe Oratnek in Refern. This Japanese fusion cafe was recommended by my Japanese matcha-lover friend for some delicious Japanese-inspired cafe food and innovative green tea desserts.
The quaint little cafe is hidden in a terrace house on a residential street of Redfern close to the Prince Alfred Park. If it weren't for GoogleMaps on my phone, I seriously, would not have located this place at all.
How did this cafe gain so much popularity? The owner, Kenny Takayama, a former Head Chef of Bills at Darlinghurst, decided to realise his dream and opened Cafe Oratnek to offer simple quality food. He offers unique Western cafe dishes fused with Japanese influences. His motto is 'Finished everyday, fresh the day the after', using the freshest natural ingredients.
We visited this cafe for a weekend brunch and the place was buzzing with an energetic atmosphere. While my friend deliberated on whether to take the intimate seats inside against the rustic walls or to opt for a table in the courtyard surrounded with fresh flowers and herbs, I noticed people were popping in and out for takeaway coffee.
I decided to have a simple open toast. Sounded too ordinary? Not when you have flaked crab, avocado, ponzu gelee, cucumber, shiso and salmon caviar on top of it! This dish was straight out of a fine-dining restaurant - the presentation was elegant and the fresh ingredients enhanced the flavours and made it really light and refreshing. The chef has done well creating a Japanese interpretation of a classic Western dish.
My friend ordered the Omurice (omelette tomato rice) which looked very appealing. The classic bacon tomato fried rice was wrapped inside the soft egg omelette, topped with cheesy bolognese gravy sauce. The flavour was strong and it got a tick of approval from me.
My friend, however, found the Italian bolognese sauce was too overpowering and it was a little bit too strange for her liking. I ended up finishing both dishes.
We also had the perfect side as well - McDonald-like french fries dusted with exotic Aonori seaweed powder!
When we finished the savoury part of the meal, my friend was excited for some desserts.
The signature of Cafe Oratnek is their range of Japanese matcha green tea desserts. If you think green tea muffin sounds different then you are in for more interesting green tea-infused options. Imagine your basic chocolate menu, you will find their matcha equivalents here.
My friend knew what she wanted and she got us a limited edition green-tea tiramisu and the green-tea lamington.
We also ordered a matcha thick shake and berry ice tea to go with the desserts. My friend was very happy with her green tea thick shake, she said it has the strong authentic green tea flavour just how the Japanese do it.
Even though the green tea tiramisu tasted quite decent, I think I still prefer the authentic Italian version better. The green-tea lamington tasted, well, just like a lamington; the green tea flavour was not strong, it just looked odd that is all.
The iced pomegranate tea was a nice finish to the meal. For some reason, I felt quite healthy after this big meal.