Found it at last?
Okay. What I am about to say may be a little controversial. But I think Sapore in St Kilda has broken me, and it's forced me to write something I never thought I would. Are you ready?
I'm glad I crossed the river.
Excuse me while I go have a shower.
I considered leaving my Sapore blog-post at that and calling it a day, but then I thought that as soon as the Gourmet Wife read it she'd make me re-do it. So I might as well put it all in the first time.
It'd been a rough week, but it was capped off with the labour day long weekend, so we booked a lunch table at Sapore. We didn't realise it at the time but when we booked online we had accidentally done so through the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival's express lunch things*, luckily this wasn't compulsory so we were quickly brought the menu when we asked. Pretty sure they were only too happy to do so (given that we probably spent double what they would have done had we done the MFWF lunch).
Given the setting of Sapore, with open front wall looking over Fitzroy street to the park and beach of South Melbourne, a bottle of white was obviously the order of the day. The 2009 'Clonale' Chardonnay ($52) from Kooyong in the Mornington Penninsula to be precise, I knew nothing of this wine at the time, but I'll probably try and hunt some down in the near future. It was balanced between fruit and oak, had a good nose and great finish.
As soon as entrees arrived we were glad we didn't do the express lunch. My beef carpaccio ($20) was great, the combination of capers, garlic croutons and cornichon dressing was excellent, and the whole dish reminicent of a similar offering at Cutler & Co. The Grilled quail ($20), which Sarah ordered, came with quails egg and faro salad, porchini mustard and salsa verde, and had the a wonderful grilled flavour together with with the soft tender quail meat. Both entrees were, to paraphrase Charlie Sheen, winners.
Mains were equally successful. My Veal 'Osso Buco' with parsley and lemon risotto ($34) arrived as a kind of balotine I guess, and while in the first mouthful I found the risotto a bit heavy on the parsley, once it mixed a little with the saffron infused "brodo" it became amazing. The confit-garlic accopanyments were also a nice touch. Sarah ordered the '12 hour porchetta' with fennel salad ($32) which was not a million miles away from the version of rolled pork belly that I've been known to cook. Although Sapore's crackling was much much better.
Two course lunch be damned we dove head-long into dessert. I was obviously not going to pass up the Chocolate and coitreau mousse with toasted marshmallow ($14) which was divine. Sarah's Limoncello semi-freddo with manuka honey sabayon, honeycombe and fresh berries ($15) was also a fine choice.
So if I'm really honest with myself (and you) my whole "not crossing the river" thing is a bit of an act. After all, my two best meals in Australia have been south of the Yarra - Jacques Reymond and the amazing Attica. To be honest Sapore isn't in the same league as those two, but then nothing else is. What Sapore has managed to do is to sneak its way onto a very small list of restaurants that I'd happily recommend to people for any occasion, from a casual lunch to a celebratory dinner. And in that it stands alone as the first restaurant below the Yarra to do so.
* I've made my thoughts clear on these before. They're fine for a value lunch, but I think that sometimes the restaurants are selling themselves short by offering dishes that might not be up to the standard of their a-la-carte fare.
Beef carpaccio, Grilled quail.
Veal 'Osso Buco', '12 hour porchetta'.
Limoncello semi-freddo, Chocolate and coitreau mousse.
Kooyon 'Clonale' Chardonnay 2009 $52