Cabbage by the plateful takes out Dine Wellington 2016
If you were thinking of making a booking at Jano Bistro in August, you may want to do it soon.
The Willis St restaurant's Dine Wellington menu has won Wellington on a Plate's top award - with a Festival Dish dish of red cabbage four-ways, no less.
New to 2016, all Dine Wellington mains are now known as a "Festival Dish", for which chefs were given the theme of "an element of surprise".
Jano Bistro's winning Festival Dish might read relatively humbly on the menu: Red cabbage with Commonsense Organics prunes, On Trays parmesan and The Nut Shop hazelnuts.
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But what came to the table managed to delight and surprise the experienced judges, including My Kitchen Rules Australia's Liz Egan, and festival director Sarah Meikle.
Nestled in one of Willis St's heritage-listed buildings, formerly the home of restaurants White House, Citron and Petit Lyon, Jano Bistro is owned by Diana Goh and Pierre-Alain Fenoux, 2014 Chef of the Capital winner.
Fenoux was inspired by Wellington landmarks like The Beehive and the Bucket Fountain for his dish, which includes a prune tuile, red cabbage fondant, hazelnuts, and a parmesan cream.
He went for red cabbage in his "50 shades of purple" dish because he says it is a very underrated ingredient. He expects to go through at least two, large cabbages a day during the festival, and intends on keeping it on the menu for longer than originally expected.
Meikle said Fenoux's dish ticked all the boxes in terms of taste, the element of surprise, locally sourced ingredients, and a well-matched wine, which was a Martinborough pinot noir.
The fact that a vegetarian dish won reflected the ethos of the festival, Meikle said, which was about pushing the boundaries and trying something you would not normally try.
"It just shows there are amazing thing you can do with a really humble ingredient, and the cabbage doesn't bite."
Egan is a huge fan of cabbage but said she had never seen it prepared in a way that showed so much technical capability.
"The description we were given was 'red cabbage, prunes, parmesan and hazel nuts', so you go along thinking hmm. Then what comes out is this amazing dish and he does this wonderful alchemy using cabbage juice and it's absolutely gorgeous.
"People will be delighted by the theatre of it, but then when they actually taste it, his talent and imagination is breathtaking and he's going to be a force in Wellington, I can see."
The Festival Dish award replaces the Wellington On a Plate Award, of which previous winners were The White House, Muse On Allen, Logan Brown and Zibibbo.
Jano's Festival Dish and the other finalists' dishes will be available during Wellington on a Plate, from August 12-28. More information and a list of participating restaurants can be found at Visawoap.com.
FESTIVAL DISH FINALISTS
Capitol Bistro - Wellington 20 kilometre radius daily fish and local produce.
Jano - Red cabbage with Commonsense Organics prunes, On Trays parmesan and The Nut Shop hazelnuts.
The Larder - Elk fillet with baby kale, Prana Greens sprouts, celeriac, smoked onion puree and porcini mushroom.
Ti Kouka - Organic pulled confit chicken with iceberg, sardine aioli, croutons and a fried poached egg.
Olive - The Nut Store cashew vegan 'mozzarella' with Cuba Fruit Mart broccolini and artichoke pesto.