When I first heard that Bills’ former head chef Kentaro (Kenny) Takayama was due open a Japanese fusion cafe in Redfern, I knew this was one for the Google Calendar.
Oratnek is located in a terrace house on the fringe of Prince Alfred Park. Grab a spot in the front herb garden, where chefs come to pick parsley, mint and chives to order, and where you can reach down and liberally garnish your own. Start with a Mecca coffee and choose from a selection of classic cafe favourites that have been subtly fused with Japanese flavours.
Worn-out breakfast items such as mushrooms on toast are brought to life with a sweet and salty kick of miso ($13), and in some cases dishes have been totally reinvented. A prime example is the jamon serrano, pecorino, kale, mashed green pea and broad bean tartine ($13), which is a fresh and elegant take on a ham, spinach and cheese toastie. Their white chocolate and matcha green tea muffins ($5) will have you wondering why you ever gave up eating muffins in the first place.
The lunch menu follows suit, serving salads and sandwiches which are a little bit spesh. Try the monster pork fillet katsu sambo ($10) filled with fresh cabbage, Japanese barbecue sauce and mustard on thick white bread with the crusts cut off (thanks, Mum). Served on a bread board, this epic schnitty sandwich will have everyone wishing they ordered the same, and at just $10, you’re paying dodgy pub prices for some really high-quality fare.
There’s also a Japanese fried chicken sandwich ($10) with a brave helping of fermented kimchi, as well as a calamari, cabbage and fresh herb salad ($17) or a comforting steamed clam pot with sake and garlic ($19).
While the cuisine has little in common with Bills, you can see the resemblance in the quality control; every punctured egg unleashes a gooey, golden stream of yolk, while each piece of fried chicken runs with perfectly clear juices. Food is fresh, faultless and fabulous. There may not be corn fritters or honeycomb butter on the menu, but for me this is classic Bills with a Japanese edge.