What We're Eating: Cafe Kentaro
Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia
Francesca V (UFF Marketing Manager) and friends
Cafe Kentaro: 616 Bourke St
Surry Hills NSW 2010
What'd we have
Signature katsu (pork fillet katsu, cabbage, japanese bbq sauce, mustard)
Spicy buta-kimuchi toast (sliced pork belly, garlic chives, garlic shoots, bean sprouts, spicy yakiniku sauce)
Matcha french toast with mousse and banana chips
Breakfast sandwich with ham steak, poached eggs, mizuna and wasabi hollandaise
Iced matcha tea
Mango, passionfruit and orange smoothie
Milk with espresso jelly
Matcha milk shake
What's to love
Cafe Kentaro has a playful menu that combines Australian cafe classics with Japanese and pan-Asian influences and ingredients. Our lunch was delicious, massive and surprising with every bite. After seeing so many cafe menus that feature the same basics (I can make eggs and bacon at home and I can do it for a LOT less than $20), Kentaro felt like a welcome change to the norm and something I can't replicate at home (uh, my pantry is fresh out of mizuna, burdock root, aonori chips and the like). My pork belly and kimchi toast was a take on the Australian tradition of heaping everything onto toast for a one dish breakfast except in this case it was truly HEAPED with food including snappy garlic chives, korean pepper threads, marinated bean sprouts and of course the aforementioned belly and kimchi. My companion went for the katsu sandwich which was equally delicious but played to it's strengths in simplicity rather than the complexity of my dish.
Surry Hills is arguably the cafe capitol of Sydney so there's no shortage of competition nearby. This area is not for the faint-hearted restaurateur. Despite heaps of walk-by traffic (to be boosted in the near future by planned improvements including a new green corrider, increased pedestrian walkways and a new lightrail line), I counted nine cafes within a five minute radius of Kentaro many of those on a busier street lined with popular retail shops. In short, to make it here you need to strive for exceptionalism.
The cafe is the second Sydney location for Chef Kenny Takayama who built his credentials at one of Sydney's best loved and longest lasting cafes, Bills. Everything is made in house with the exception of the bread (provided by local bakery, Sonoma) and the coffee which is a specially produced roast for Kentaro by Aroma Coffee - if you've ever had brekkie with an Australian you'll know that they take their coffee very, very seriously. All in all, a clever concept, a beautifully designed space and extremely delicious food is a winning concept in a neighborhood with approximately one cafe per ten people.