Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Izakaya Aragato, Chatswood

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.

Izakaya Arigato on Urbanspoon


  1. These are some of your best photos Miss Piggy, in my very amateur opinion! The food looks great. Interesting thoughts on the ethics of blogging.

  2. Great post, M!

    You do raise an interesting point about our role as bloggers. Like you, I do err on the side of being kind and diplomatic.

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

  3. I'm all pro-honesty in blogs (perhaps a little too much, but that's the way I am). IMO a review in a food blog is no different than plain old word of mouth. You did a great job at snapping photos and eating all the dishes at light speed!

  4. I think it's important to be honest with your readers but as you say realise that you are impacting someone's livelihood. But you just cannot say that you enjoyed something if you haven't. There is a polite way to say it-of course some will never want to hear any criticism at all and no matter how politely you put it, they don't want to hear it! :)

  5. I think it's important to be honest but definitely difficult to strike a balance between that and being overly critical.

    Have you been to Sushi Suma? That's one of the first places I ever recall being served ice-cream with cornflakes and azuki puree!

  6. I agree with being honest but also reminding yourself that these people are making a living out of this.

    Cornflakes are quite a common addition in Jap ice-cream desserts :)

  7. I know what you mean about affecting someone's business and its livelihood- I guess I'm like you and try to stay somewhere near the middle too! ;) I'm not a very opinionated person though, so it takes a lot for me not to enjoy a dining experience, so my reviews are often quite positive! haha.... The food here looks great! Shame about the service- I hate being rushed when eating!

  8. There is nothing wrong with an honest and justified opinion, whether you talk about it or write it. Bagging a business is a very different approach and needs to be firmly backed up. Negative words can definitely affect someones business and livelihood but at the same time, poor service, bad food etc speak just as loud as a negative review. If something was so bad the business needs to look at itself and not get up in arms when someone mentions its flaws. This applies to all businesses, not just hospitality.
    As for this Spreets meal, it all looks very good esp that katsu. Pity the kitchen was so eager in sending out its dishes like some food tsunami. If was true izakaya you'd be sitting back relaxing with your food and drinks, not rushing to keep up with the kitchens eagerness.

  9. Such a shame about the experience because as you said, the food looks great. Although...cornflakes? What the? lol

  10. What a shame they didn't give you a bit of breathing space to sit back and truly enjoy their dishes as it all looks delicious.

    The older I get the more honest I have become. That is now reflecting in my writing. There is a fine line of course, and I make sure that I can back up what I say.


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