THERE’S a hidden gem down in South Fremantle.
It’s called Sanco and serves up refined Japanese food at very reasonable prices.
Situated on the ground floor of a stylish new apartment complex on Douro Road, the restaurant is chic and minimalist with orange globe lanterns dangling above black tables and a polished stone floor.
It could easily be a corporate bore, but it felt relaxed and demure, especially on a stormy day when the wind was howling and the rain lashed the windowpanes.
The service was superb and the Japanese lady behind the till was super polite and helpful, speaking in soft, hushed tones.
Sanco was recommended by South Freo local and former Chook Jenny D’anger, who recently returned from a gold prospecting trip up north.
Her husband has gold fever, is a snake wrangler (see last week’s Herald), distills his own whisky, and loves fish and chips. A sort of cross between Indiana Jones and an extra from The Castle.
Jenny is a vego so we decided to share a variety of dishes from the entree and sides section.
Like the restaurant, the lunch menu was minimalist and had a small range of salads, sushi, sashimi, donburis and desserts.
The presentation of the dishes was exquisite: the vegetable tempura ($16.80) was a deep-fried work of art with dainty crisp vegetables perched on a jet black plate with a pinch of salt.
A tempura veteran, Jenny commented on how Sanco’s was incredibly light and not greasy with a delightful assortment of veggies, including an exotic mushroom. The dish was really brought to life by the little bowl of salty, dashi broth. A fantastic start.
I had the Aigamo ($21.80) to myself and what a lovely treat it was – beautifully roasted and braised duck with an amazing chef’s special sauce that had a great balance of sweet and tart.
The duck meat was of the highest quality and the whole dish was beautifully presented.
This could have been a meal on its own with some rice ($3). Top notch.
Jenny commented on how edamame (boiled young soybeans $3.80) were all the rage and quickly becoming the smashed avocado of the Japanese food world.
She enjoyed Sanco’s, but I found them a bit bland and repetitive; a personal taste thing rather than the dish being poorly executed.
No one could accuse the agedashi eggplant ($8.80) of being bland; it was deep-fried and soaked in a kelp and dried mushroom dashi broth.
The broth was cold and really grabbed your attention with a vinegary burst.
The eggplant was lovely and soft and the dish was a real palate cleanser. Rounding off the meal were some renkon chips ($3.80) and miso soup ($3.50).
I steer clear of miso soup – it’s frequently a salty disaster – but this incarnation had a nice clean broth (one of the best Jenny’s had) while the lotus root chips provided some crunchy texture.
Jenny says Sanco is often fully booked at night and I can see why; it serves up refined Japanese fare and the service is superb. I’ll be back to try the sashimi and sushi when the weather picks up.
Maybe by then Jenny’s husband will have struck gold, and he’ll pay Sanco $1000 to cook him fish, chips and mushy peas.
Sanco Japanese Cuisine
2/19 Douro Rd, South Fremantle
by STEPHEN POLLOCK