At any good, traditional Japanese hotel, this is what they serve you in the morning: Rice, usually white and sometimes sprinkled with flakes of dried plum: a moderate portion of fish, pan-fired or boiled and seasoned only with salt; a few slices of thin omelette rolled into a tube; a bowl of cloudy miso, sometimes boiled with fresh clams, a small serving of natto (pungent, fermented soy beans); and a collection of colourful pickled vegetables.
Cafe Monaka is one of the only spots in Sydney that serves this breakfast. It comes served in a single platter, and features many of the items you’d find in Japan. The fish of choice is a grilled fillet of salmon marinated in shio-koji (a fermented-rice seasoning). The miso comes minus clams but with tofu, plus the addition of a few colourful pickled vegetables. The natto is an optional side – with its stringy, cheese-like texture and pungent flavour, it’s an acquired taste.
The rest of the menu is filled with creative takes on dishes you can find in many cafes across Sydney: acai bowls, avocado on toast, poke, burgers, and toast. Japanese street food is represented by a tonkatsu sandwich and a soba omelette – a heart mass of noodles wrapped burrito-style in a sheet of egg and then topped with Japanese barbeque sauce, kewpie mayo and bonito.
Owner Fuminori Bun Fukuda (known as Bun) grew up in the Shizuoka prefecture of Japan, an area famous for Mount Fuji and green tea. Bun is as enthusiastic about tea as his home is. A range of imported green teas are listed on the menu with flavour notes, like wines. (For example, “summer garden, corn and jasmine” or “parsley and zucchini savoury”.)