Monday, 6 June 2011

Restaurant Review: Sarti

Location: 6 Russell Pl, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9639 7822

Cuisine: Italian
Overall Impression: 8/10

Having heard about Sarti from different reliable sources, we were excited that we finally had the opportunity to dine there. It was J's birthday a week ago so this was part of his birthday celebrations (the week after I baked him the giant red velvet cupcake) with me as his date. We made a booking for 8.30pm as we both weren't sure if we would be able to get out of work early that Friday night. I had only rung the day before for a booking. The restaurant was fully booked apart from after 8.30pm (just as well, as we could not have made any other time!).
The whole place was bustling. There were people having Friday night drinks at the bar and the restaurant area was filled with patrons. It's nice going out on a Friday night. The atmosphere is always so much more lively. We were promptly seated at our table by a very friendly waiter that took very good care of us the rest of the night.
We decided to spoil ourselves with the degustation option and it turned out to be an excellent decision.
Bread served with extra virgin olive oil 
We knew we needed to get a bottle as this was one of the few occasions J was not driving. [Don't worry, I wasn't driving either.] So, J decided to get a bottle of Mount Langi Ghiran Billi Billi Shiraz which turned out to be a great choice - it was a very nice bottle of wine! Good job, hun! J wasn't sure about getting this particular bottle of wine because he has a theory that big wine companies that are particularly famous for their top of the range wines try and flog off drags with their cheaper range because they know it will still sell due to brand recognition. Fortunately, on this occassion, his theory did not apply.
First course: Wild duck and ‘provolone polpette’, pistacchio, aniseed myrtle
 Second course: Calabrian chilli crab, ‘n’duja’ crumble, ‘neo nati fritti’
Third course: Marsala glazed homemade sausages, whipped white polenta
Fourth course: Camel ‘carpaccio’, native pepper soil, toasted macadamia nut, bush tomato

And every dish was delectable. The entrees were hearty and rustic. The Camel was the only entrée that had more of a modern twist. I couldn't say Camel is now my favourite but it was definitely an enjoyable experience and if anyone could pull off serving raw camel, Sarti surely could and did.  Everything was seasoned perfectly, and had a lot of familiar flavours and struck a good balance on the plate.
My favourite entrée was the soft shell crab. It had just the right amount of spice for that little kick without overpowering the subtle flavours of the sweet crab flesh.
Fifth course: ‘Gnocchi al forno’, black leek, scallops, mussel, ‘cavolini di bruxell’

The gnocchi was simply amazing! The mussels were delicious. They were beautifully fresh and juicy and so were the scallops. Perfectly seared and perfectly cooked. And back to the gnocchi. Al dente, creamy and yet with a bit of bite. The gnocchi itself was perfectly seasoned (I could have eaten it by itself). And together with all the other elements of the dish, it was presented beautifully, maintaining an air of refinement on the palate and yet still tasted hearty and comforting.
 Sixth course: Braised veal cheeks, purple cauliflower cous cous, prociutto consommé, black rice

The flavours of this course came as a bit of a surprise to me. When I read it on the menu, I had imagined something with quite intense flavours, much like the Ox tongue and cheek I had at Maze. Instead, the Braised veal cheeks had very subtle flavours. The prosciutto consomme really brought the whole dish together, but it too, was crisp and clean. Everything had very subtle flavours but together, it was a marriage made in heaven.
Side dishes:
‘Patate mille erbe’and Mixed salad, ‘aceto della casa’
Soon it was time for dessert, we were excited to see what our desserts would be as we had told the waiter to surprise us. (That's another great thing about Sarti. Unlike a traditional degustation, if you are extremely picky, they let you decide every course! And ofcourse you can leave all the decisions in the capable hands of the chef if you prefer.
Seventh course: ‘Pistacchio panna cotta’, caramel salted popcorn

This was delectable. I savoured every moreish morsel. The perfect melt-in-your-mouth panna cotta with a lovely pistachio scent and flavour contrasted beautifully with the saltiness and crunch of the popcorn. It was such a beautifully balanced dessert and it had the perfect level of sweetness so every element of the dish was clearly present with every mouthful.
Eighth course: ‘Amarena gelato’, frozen liquid biscuit, cherry gel & hazelnuts

This was also a beautiful dessert. It was sweeter than the panna cotta and was much more indulgent. The biscuit was so short and quickly crumbled and melted in my mouth. And the gelato was smacked with cherry infused flavours. It was a great end to an excellent meal.
Sarti offers one of the better value degustations in Melbourne. At $90 a head, it delivers on all fronts - excellent service, food and great ambience. I cannot wait to go back.
Sarti on Urbanspoon

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