If you weren't looking for it, you'd be forgiven for not noticing Sado Island, a long established Japanese restaurant in Claremont. Unlike many other places in the Quarter, Sado Island doesn't draw attention to itself. It doesn't have a website. It doesn't have a neon sign advertising its presence.
What it does have is a solid reputation and quality food.
In many regards Sado Island is a typical, good quality Japanese restaurant. Open for lunch and dinner, the menu offers everything that is expected and nothing that it is not. There is a large sushi and sashimi section, which you can choose a la carte or omakase (selected by the chef). There is teriyaki (beef, chicken and fish). There is kara-age.
I know, you're thinking 'every Japanese restaurant offers bento boxes, what's the big deal?' well, other Japanese restaurants tend to offer bento boxes with only one option for the main course. Sure, there is rice and salad and pickles and soup and often a dessert – but only one main.
Not at Sado Island. Here you are offered the choice of four bento boxes, and each have a number of main dishes, so it is basically is like Japanese tapas, with lots of little tastes of lots of things off the menu.
The sushi bento ($45) gives you a choice of two entrée starters: age dashi-tofu (deep fried crispy tofu) or yasai age dashi (deep-fried eggplant and zucchini in a tempura sauce). Then for mains you are given a selection of sushi and sashimi together with miso soup and salad before finishing with homemade green tea ice cream.
If you're a teriyaki lover, and who isn't, the teriyaki bento at $43 would be your thing. For entree you have the choice of either salmon or chicken Californian maki (sushi roll) before the main event of all three teriyaki dishes (chicken, beef and fish) together with rice, soup, salad and ice cream. How many times have you sat looking at a menu wondering if you'll have the chicken or the fish? Wonder no more.
A word of caution: that's raw onion under the meat, not radish
The seafood bento ($48) offers you a choice of starters: kani kara age (soft-shell crab) or tai fry. Then you can enjoy the fishy delights of hotate teriyaki (seared sashimi scallops and vegetables with udon noodles with teriyaki sauce), prawn salad and teriyaki fish. Oh, and rice and soup and salad and ice cream.
The thing I love about bento, apart from not having to make a choice and having the wide variety available to me, is the eclectic dishes the meals come in. Rarely from the same set, but always perfectly matched, the saying that 'we eat with our eyes' is never more true at Japanese restaurants.
The final bento is the Sado bento ($50). You can choose your own entrée from the menu and then you partake in a range of dishes including combination sashimi, teriyaki fish, egg omelette, fried chicken, age dashi-tofu and yasai age dashi.
So big is the bento that it comes out on two trays: one with the rice, soup and salad, and the other a perfectly designed square trays with four little compartments. The only problem is if you forget what you are meant to be eating. There are so many things in the bento my husband thought it should come with little signs.
Each of the dishes was perfectly presented and cooked, my only issue was that the skin of the eggplant was very bitter. This is a very filling meal, and not for the dainty eater. The portions may look small but if you manage to finish, you realise how substantial it is.
As an aside, the salad dressing was the nicest I have ever had, and l was thrilled to see you can buy bottles of the dressing to take home. See, you can make friends with salad.
Once we had done our best with the mains, and were contemplating a nice lie-down, dessert arrived. A perfectly formed sphere of green tea ice cream was accompanied by two balls of melon and a grape. Visually pleasing, and the size was agreeable too. I'm not a fan of green tea ice cream, but I got the impression afterwards I could have asked for plain vanilla.
Sado Island is a hidden gem, and considering how long it has been around (16 years), in Perth's rapidly changing restaurant scene, it could be considered a respected elder. Run by Toshi Nomura, and his team of attentive, friendly staff, Sado Island is calm and inward looking. Literally. It overlooks busy Stirling Highway so the blinds are kept closed and with it the less-than-inspiring view. A water feature gurgles happily, and a semi-private dining room would be the ideal location for a family (or business) get together.
I can see why Sado Island is considered a Claremont icon.