We were greeted and given a table despite not having a reservation. It had been a few years since I dined at Sarti and the recent renovations are not only immediately noticeable for anyone that has had the pleasure of dining at this Italian eatery in the past but now the introduction of warmer and brighter colours that effectively makes the bar in the centre of the restaurant a focal point all the more interesting. Not being distracted by the inviting bar, which one could easily exploit for a few glasses of red and a cheeky dish on the side, we took our assigned table happily and were quickly provided bread and a wine list. Not wanting to be immediately concerned with wine pairing as we were provided a glass of Peroni courtesy of the on-site beer agent, I opted for the 2010 Hauner Salina Rosso Rose ($64) which is from the island of Salina in the Aeolian Islands off the northern coast of Sicily. What would be regarded as a "cheap and cheerful" wine, this matched well with our first course, a "Mixed Board" ($29) which included a selection of salumi and buffalo mozzarella. I was not only impressed with the volume of the meat but also the quality of both it and the cheese which was classified D.O.C. as you would expected. Morsels of the spicy salumi matched well with the spices inherent in the wine and given that the grapes were produced from a volcanic region, I found the tastes to be complimentary.
We were advised that one of the entree specials was in fact a venison carpaccio ($16) which I was very interested in trying. After recently enjoying some beautiful venison over two courses at Grossi Florentino, chef Paolo Masciopinto (ex-Sosta Cucina) certainly had to meet let alone exceed some very high expectations for this dish of raw meat. Alll I can say is - Wow! Once again I was amazed and my expectations were exceeded. So much so, I ordered a repeat serving of this dish just because it was so amazing. Repeating orders is a rare occurrence for me and to this day I am haunted and sullen that I did not opt for a third round.
Spaghetti alla Chitarra ($28) which is a combination of black ink pasta, Western Australian blue spanner crab, fresh tomato, garlic, chilli was the final dish to find its way to me from the kitchen. Paired with a 2012 Dal Zotto Rosato ($9/glass) I found this dish not only full of flavour which was highlighted by an appropriate amount of ink, but also the substantial amount of blue swimmer crab. Everything just worked so well and the chilli was just the right amount not to overwhelm the pasta or kill the wine. I really enjoyed this dish - in fact I really enjoyed everything at Sarti.
The recent facelift of Sarti combined with a new head chef has caused Sarti to evolve positively. Between the comfortable bar, the layout of the tables which are far enough apart that you do not intrude upon other diners and a relaxing outdoor patio that is easily accessed, this restaurant has the ability to satisfy even the most demanding of patrons. The smart yet consultative service was always at hand to provide advice, especially with the wine list and later the menu to ensure that our bizarre and greedy palates were satisfied and they succeeded. I walked out of Sarti after spending 2.5 hours there much happier than when I arrived which was not only refreshing in itself but certainly put the restaurant on the forefront of my radar where I look forward to returning soon and often.
Sarti received one chef's hat in the 2012/2013 The Age Good Food Guide.
6 Russell Place, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9639 7822
My Rating: 16.75/20
Value For Money: 4.25/5
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
At the time of this post, 71% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Sarti.