The yellow villa at 270 Willis Street holds special food and ambience memories for me (from the Citron days), and I think Jano Bistro might just carry on that tradition.
Pierre-Alain Fenoux, French-born and trained, former Head Chef of Le Canard, and 2014 Chef of the Capital sees himself as an Alchemist of food constantly seeking new ideas and techniques, and promoting ‘bistronomy’ – the marriage of bistro and gastronomy (fine dining in a relaxed environment).
No pressure then.
The name Jano pays homage to Pierre’s French gardener grandfather and the learnings at his knee about local, fresh and seasonal (and yes, the kitchen at Jano is tiny to further inspire daily freshness and innovation – no freezers here).
So Jano is open weekdays from 7am-10amish for coffee (Flight) and muffins (check out their FB page for daily creations), weekends from 8am-3pm for brunch, and Tuesday to Sunday evenings for dinner.
My first visit was a Sunday lunch, and my second a Tuesday dinner. Both times were impressive, and I left thinking there’s some definite smarts in the kitchen here and some complexity and considerable attention to detail in what’s being presented.
Be it cooking techniques, flavour/texture combinations, overall presentation, table settings, service, etc, they seem to have it nailed. Although I do wonder how they’ll maintain their very good price points for all of that – $17 brunch, $32 mains, $14 desserts.
Now to the food specifically.
The smoked fish cake with asian-slaw, peanuts and chilli mayo was crisp, fresh, flavourful and beautifully presented (interesting slaw).
The crispy parcels of tomato ragu served with black pudding, confit egg and spinach were well rated for flavour combination and uniqueness (the confit egg having a yolk that held together when pierced inside its soft tender white).
The beef (Red Devon) two ways included a very visually appealing and tasty ‘building’ of beef rib.
The pork squares of deliciously slow cooked belly then crisped and served in a sweet corn, mushroom and chilli broth melted in the mouth.
The apricot dessert of rosemary grilled apricots topped with soy custard and compressed apricot (intriguingly transparent) accompanied by a cashew nut crumble and small cubes of intense apricot was almost too pretty to eat.
And the Whittakers 72% Ghana with several densities, techniques and presentations of chocolate left the imbiber describing the chocolate mousse as the chocolate equivalent of a ripe fresh peach straight from the tree on a sunny mid-summers day. Far out!
Next time I’m going for the unique Mebus Estate (Wairarapa) chardonnay served warm and only available at Jano, the cauliflower main (as interesting vegetarian dishes are a rarity), the cheese dessert (which is actually a mini salad built around the cheese being showcased at the time), and I’m going to sit in the outside courtyard along the side of the villa (weather gods permitting).
The wine list is interesting (a number available here only due to the small size and particular supplier they use) and there’s also a 7-course $95 degustation if you’d like to really push the boat out.
Fresh, simple and innovative with a dash of the unexpected? Absolutely yes.
And darned good value for the effort and care taken.