I recently attended a conference on food blogging – EatDrinkBlog 2011 – where a few of the seminars were focused on the ethics of blogging, and what our obligations are under the law in terms of the content of our blogs. Debate went back and forth about what to do if you have a less than positive experience at a restaurant. Do you pretend like it never happened and just focus on the good aspects of the meal, do you let the restaurant have it and tell them exactly how woeful you think they are...or do you tread somewhere in the middle? Is it dishonest not to tell your readers about both the good and bad elements of a dining experience?
Personally I try to tread somewhere in the middle, erring on the side of kindness as I’m mindful that I’m writing about someone’s business and someone’s livelihood – it’s not my place to tear them apart no matter how crap my evening was. That said, if I have had a really bad experience I don’t want to pretend like it never happened. I'm often more forgiving towards less than perfect food, but bad service really gets me going. What a quandary.
So keeping all of that in mind I’m a bit stumped about what to say about Izakaya Aragato, though I will start off by saying it is not an Izakaya, but a simple Japanese restaurant located on Chatswood’s Eat Street. From what I’ve told by those “in the know” a true Izakaya is a snack bar serving simple, small dishes of Japanese treats that you consume with a cold beer (or three) after a hard day at the office.
The food at Izakaya Aragato was all very lovely, and as we were dining on a Spreets voucher there was A LOT of food – two entrees, sushi plate, two mains and two desserts. A really good value for money meal.
When there is so much food being offered you don’t really want it to arrive at your table all at the same time. All of our dishes (bar the dessert) arrived in quick succession, like rapid gunfire, which left us to gobble food really quickly simply to make table space for everything that was bestowed upon us. It certainly wasn’t a relaxing meal, especially when the waitress was literally shoving my bowl out from under me as I was eating my entree so she could find room for my bento box. A death stare was given by me and duly ignored – nicely played waitress. Maybe they just try to get their Spreets customers in and out as quickly as possible, but as we were only one of three tables there surely I don’t quite get the need to rush us.
So onto the food which was really quite nice. Everything was fresh, flavoursome and presented beautifully. If this restaurant was in my local area I'd probably turn a blind eye to the service as the food is well worth a revisit.
The meal started with a tea pot filled with warm Sake. I actually thought this was Green Tea so filled both our cups to the brim until I realised what was inside the tea pot. Whoops!
Our first entree was a simple bowl of Agedashi Tofu (normally $6.80) which was great. The tofu was firm, fat and so squiggly I had to resort to eating it with a fork. The broth was perfectly flavoured and a great start to the food.
Next to arrive was a Miso Soup - which was meant to accompany the Bento Box I'd ordered for my main meal. The Boy drank this straight away however so there was no worry about it going cold before we got around to eating mains.
Our second entree was a beautiful Soft Shell Crab Salad (normally $12.80). I find it hard to go past Soft Shell Crab when I see it on a menu and this did not disappoint. The salad was generous in size and had all the right flavours that go into a making a great Japanese salad.
The Spreets deal also included a plate of either Sashimi or Sushi. The Boy took a liking to the Rock n Roll plate (normally $13.80) which was a good choice as it had a little bit of everything - including my favourite Cooked Tuna Salad Roll.
I love Bento Boxes ($13.80) so it was a no brainer that I was ordering this for my main meal. I choose my Bento Box with a serve of succulent and flavoursome Chicken Teriyaki which was accompanied by Rice, Seaweed Salad, Gyoza, Takoyaki (Octopus Ball) and a zesty green salad.
The Boy is a true Aussie at heart and can't go past a good schnitzel when it is on offer. Chicken Katsu ($12.90) is the Japanese version of a chicken schnitzel- crumbed, fried and topped with Japanese Mayonnaise and a sweet tasting sauce that I've had on Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) before. The whole lot is served with a rich, creamy Japanese Coleslaw. Judging by the fact that there was not a crumb left on his plate I think The Boy enjoyed his meal.
The table is cleared and we wait for our desserts to arrive. We both ordered the Japanese Ice-Cream Sundae ($6.80) and it certainly put a smile on our faces when it arrived. The Sundae was a colourful concoction of Green Tea, Sesame and Vanilla Ice-Cream drizzled with Strawberry Topping, Cornflakes (??) and a pink wafer biscuit. My favourite ice-cream flavour was definitely the nutty tasting Sesame. The Green Tea was "interesting" as it had big leafs of green tea dotted throughout giving it bitter note. The Cornflakes added an intersting textural element and is certainly not something The Boy or I had ever encournterd in our dessert before.
Izakaya Arigato is at Shop P7, 5 Railway Street, Chatswood. Phone them on 9411 6596.