Sapore, St Kilda, Melbourne

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5 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda 
Melbourne  Vic 3182

My girlfriend Leah was in town for a Tuesday night, so we decided to keep it within walking distance and opted for a nice little Italian opposite the beautiful St Kilda Foreshore.

Sapore Restaurant has kept its one chef hat for the last several years, so this information, together with the very well priced signature $45 dinner menu of 3 courses with a glass of wine, seemed enough to make it a safe and relatively cheap bet.

We were only the second table to arrive for the evening so we chose to sit by the window overlooking St Kilda bay. Sapore’s décor is simple with clean lines and a great soaring starlit ceiling.

Leah the wine expert took charge of the wine selection, so we could have a nicer drop before we started on our set menu wine. Unfortunately as we could only have a couple of glasses (me breastfeeding, her early morning meetings), we were glad to see a good selection of wines by the carafe.  We bypassed the tempting cocktails and settled on the lovely Chard Farm Pinot Gris.

Now onto the food. The entrée option was a chef’s selection of small tasting dishes to share. Now being a natural born cynic, whenever I see chefs selection I immediately think of all the stuff in the kitchen that is either at its used by date or they’ve managed to score cheaply in bulk. However, I can confidently tell you this was definitely not the case.

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We received 3 different full sized and generous entrees to share between the 2 of us:

  • Beef carpaccio with a caper and cornichon dressing, garlic croutons and watercress – all I can say is AMAZING!!! This is one dish you have to try, and this is coming from someone who is never usually a fan of beef carpaccio. The beef is just incredible. Fresh, flavoursome and melt in your mouth, with the taste and texture almost of a fine tuna sashimi. The unusual dressing accompaniment looked like it would overpower the subtleness of the meat, however was just the opposite. The saltiness of the cornichon, the crunch of the croutons, and the creaminess of the rich egg dressing was a great contrast with the softness of the meat.
  • Red pepper arancini with woodside goats curd was hot, golden and crunchy, the pepper a nice twist on the usual arancini suspects.
  • ‘Cold smoked’ salmon with lemon (don’t ask me why this is in inverted commas, I’m just repeating what I saw on the menu) was more of a gravalax style of salmon which I preferred, so not as salty as a typical smoked salmon.

So coming out of a very impressive starter, we obviously had high expectations for our mains…unfortunately we were very disappointed. Let me caveat this by saying that I think the ingredients used were very good quality, however the final product for both of us was quite a let down.

I opted for the house-made potato gnocchi with braised rabbit, truffle butter and parmesan. The gnocchi was completely overcooked so as lovely as the sauce was, all I could really taste was the mushy pasta. As a self-confessed gnocchi addict this was just an unforgiveable mistake.

Leah ordered the hand cut spaghettini with Crystal Bay prawns, crab bisque, preserved lemon and rocket. Although the pasta was al-dente, the sauce was unfortunately very under-seasoned, and the prawns had a floury quality to them, almost as if they had been cooked for too long in an attempt to lend another dimension of flavour to the bisque.

As disappointing as these mains were, the dessert was a true joy. We both opted for the chocolate and cointreau mousse with toasted marshmallow, passionfruit and lemon balm. The mousse was a rich, chocolaty masterpiece, paired well with the sweet marshmallow and tartness of the passionfruit and lemon.

So this was a really perplexing restaurant to review, and took us on a rollercoaster of amazing entrees, mediocre mains, and heavenly desserts. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and put the mains down to an off night in the kitchen. Either way, I’ll definitely be back for that carpaccio and mousse.

I must also give a special shout to the well trained and attentive wait staff- the service was absolutely faultless.

Did you know?

  • The word Sapore is Italian for taste/flavour.
  • Head chef Simon Moss has retained the coveted one chefs’ hat from The Age Good Food Guide at Sapore for the last three years. His career started in his native New Zealand, learning the trade in hotels before taking his first head chef role at Cin Cin and then making his mark at One Tree Grill, voted Auckland’s best restaurant. After a stint in charge of the city’s busiest restaurant, Orbit, Sky City Casino, he was headhunted by Sydney’s Wildfire, before finding his spiritual culinary home in Melbourne.

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