Our gold medal was awarded to Chef Östen Rice of Wasabi Sabi. His dish had a personal narrative, inspired by the gravlax his Scandinavian grandmother used to cure but given a Japanese twist to reflect the style of his restaurant. Instead of salmon, he worked with butterfish, curing the super-soft, almost creamy raw fish with beet juice that stained a crimson rim around each slice. Contrasting the texture, he gave us a fresh, crunchy, sweet-tart slaw of julienned Fuji apple and golden beet tossed with a chiffonade of shiso leaf. There was another suggestion of shiso (and more subtle crunch) in the compressed cucumber pieces on the other side of the plate and another pickly moment in the mound of gently marinated sea asparagus. A scrumptious taro crisp with a hole punched out of its middle stood tall in a tiny hill of orange-coloured tobiko roe bound with a beautifully judged wasabi mayonnaise. It was going to take a wine of character to stand up to all those sweet-sour elements but chef found one in the 2010 Gewurztraminer from Gray Monk in B.C., a delicious gewurz’ with the acidity and the lush weight to perfectly balance the dish.
What a great night! And now we have another champion for our rendezvous in Kelowna next February. The competition grows ever more intense.
– James Chatto