Bite-sized Summary: Despite sharing many similarities with older sister Cafe Oratnek, Kentaro continues to innovate with a catalogue of fresh, new fusion dishes alongside the signatures they’ve become renowned for. A unique menu, which isn’t afraid to offer Sydneysiders something completely new and different. Don’t worry, there’s still lots of matcha!
Having fallen in love with Kenny Takayama’s Japanese fusion dishes at the original Cafe Oratnek (read my review here!), I was over the moon to visit his newest venture, Cafe Kentaro, as part of Food Critics and Bloggers Australia (FCBA). With the promise of even more innovative dishes and further experimentation with matcha, I couldn’t wait to try it all out.
Situated on a quiet, leafy strip of Bourke Street in Surry Hills, Kentaro is much bigger and more spacious than sister Oratnek, whilst maintaining the same warm, rustic interior. I was excited to see well-loved classics like the signature katsu sandwich and umami mushroom toast still on the menu, alongside an extensive list of new fusion dishes to try.
To start, a substantial and incredibly satisfying karaage sambo with fried chicken, kimuchi and mayo ($15). I’m not 100% sure what the difference between Japanese-style kimuchi and Korean kimchi is, but as an avid fan of the latter, I was very excited for this. I loved the crunchy karaage together with the pickled, tangy taste of the kimuchi and creamy mayo, however, found it was lacking the spicy flavour I was expecting. Perhaps this is the difference between kimchi and kimuchi? Feel free to enlighten me in the comments 🙂
Miso Steak Sandwich
Another generous sandwich to add to Kentaro’s lineup; 150g beef steak, Sriracha mayo, mizuna, pickled cucumber, mint yoghurt and chilli flakes on thick rye with crispy kipflers ($22). The bread was very thick, so best to approach this one as an open sandwich, with a knife and fork. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to taste all the elements of this one together but those flavours sound amazing and the beef was cooked to a lovely, tender, medium-rare.
Soft Shell Crab Burger
Next, the fried soft shell crab burger with chilli jam, mizuna, wasabi tartare and aonori (dried seaweed) chips. This delicious, juicy soft shell crab encased in a light and crispy fried coating was lovely with the tartare sauce, which had a subtle little kick of wasabi. I also loved those chips, which were perfectly seasoned and salty from the aonori.
Kentaro Style Omurice
A fusion dish by origin, omurice is one of the best Japanese comfort foods I can think of! Kentaro’s version features tomato fried rice, peas, bacon, cheese, creamy egg omelette and dark miso mushroom gravy ($19). The creamy, soft scrambled eggs were so delicious and fluffy, and paired very well with the tomato rice and rich miso mushroom gravy – highly recommend trying this one!
A traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans, with a sticky texture and strong flavour, I was told that natto is quite a polarising dish in Japan; either you love it or you hate it! Kentaro’s natto linguine is served with okura, nori, sesame seeds, shiso, shallot, egg yolk, lotus chips, soy and mirin ($22) and is vegetarian and dairy free.
Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of this dish, however, some people at the table couldn’t get enough! For me, the sticky, almost slimy texture from the natto was a little strange, although when combined with the other components it had a pleasant flavour. For those who love natto, I’m sure this is a welcome addition to the Sydney food scene, and for those who have never had it, try it and see how you fare!
Now, this plate of pasta I could really get excited for. Incorporating spiced cod roe, shimeji mushrooms, shiso, shallot and nori ($22), this is an exceptional fusion of Japanese and Italian cuisine. The mentaiko gives it a delicious, salty, slightly seafood-y (I didn’t want to go as far as “fishy”) flavour, which is incredibly delicious with the rich shimeji mushrooms and seasoning. Pasta unlike any I’d had before!
Signature Katsu Sandwich
If you’ve read my review of Cafe Oratnek, then you’ll know I LOVE this sandwich. 200g of thick, juicy pork fillet coated in crispy, crunchy, golden katsu with the freshness of cabbage, tangy japanese bbq sauce and mustard between two slices of pillow soft bread ($15). One of the best katsu sandwiches in Sydney without a doubt.
Matcha French Toast
If Cafe Oratnek/Kentaro are known for one thing, it very well could be matcha. Incorporated throughout their menu and starring in many of their freshly baked desserts, its a matcha lover’s dream!
From the all day breakfast menu, we sampled the matcha french toast with banana chips, matcha mousse, fresh strawberries and matcha coconut ($16). I absolutely loved the soft, fluffy french toast, which was rich in the distinctive, pleasantly bitter flavour of matcha. When eaten together with the sweet, airy matcha mousse, it was a beautifully balanced and delicious dish. As someone who finds lots of similar breakfast options too sickly sweet, I absolutely LOVED this contrast of flavours.
In addition to items from Kentaro’s all day breakfast and lunch menus, we were treated to several items from the on-site bakery. First up, a delicious, decadent chocolate brownie with a rich, fudgy centre.
White Chocolate & Matcha Brownie
I would have loved the matcha version to be just as good, however, I found it a little dry. Rich in beautiful matcha flavours with white chocolate chunks throughout, it was missing that delicious fudgy centre that I loved in the plain chocolate version.
Matcha Cream Puff
How cute is this little puff of matcha goodness?! Featuring light, airy choux pastry filled with a layer of rich matcha ganache and topped with a swirl of silky matcha patisserie cream. Another incredible dessert, which layers different intensities of matcha flavour to create a stunning flavour profile.
Incorporating modern Japanese favourites like the pork katsu sandwich alongside innovative dishes, which draw inspiration from international flavours (Japanese paella, pasta or shakshuka anyone?), add a flurry of delicious matcha delights and you’ve got Cafe Kentaro. Exciting, unique and full of flavour – I’ll be back on my own accord for sure! My top picks of the day? Matcha french toast and that delicious mentaiko pasta.
Eats with Marie dined as a guest of Cafe Kentaro as part of FCBA. All opinions, comments and photos are 100% honest and my own.
616 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9699 2665
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