Time for our first Japanese meal of the year. We are meeting our good friends Antonio & Elisabetta for lunch at Arigato in the centre of Newbury. Set in a Georgian building on the edge of the Avon & Kennet canal, Arigato appears to be a great setting for some interesting culinary experiences and for catching up with friends that we haven’t seen for a while.
We are running late so, when we arrive, Antonio & Elisabetta are already there. Antonio is enjoying a glass of red wine and, as it is impolite to let anyone drink alone, I order a pint of Asahi Super Dry. This is a clean, dry Japanese rice lager with some slightly sweet notes that can be picked up as it goes down. The more sensible and more generous ladies have ‘volunteered’ to drive.
Food soon arrives and the first dish is a Miso soup, made from a dashi stock of fish and seaweed, it is a pleasant beginning. Antonio and Elisabetta are both having sushi rolls – sesame covered sticky rice rolls filled with salmon and fish roe. Rock and I are sharing tuna Tataki with Miso and seabass tempura. The tuna is perfectly prepared – marinated, then just seared on the outside – then sliced to show the inside almost raw. It is lightly coated by something that is both a sweet and sticky and accompanied by a sharp and tangy sauce. The tempura batter is very delicate and the seabass inside is beautiful. Meanwhile, the next dish for Antonio and Elisabetta has arrived…crispy squid served with lime and salad vegetables.
The conversation is lively and covers a very wide range of topics – work, Yorkshire, appearing on TV, holidays and other great places to eat.
Next Rock is having the vegetarian Gyoza, steamed Japanese dumplings served with a dipping sauce. Antonio & Elisabetta are enjoying the chicken Katsu curry – the breaded and fried chicken has been added to a silky rich curry sauce and served with rice and salad. I’ve moved on to the chicken Teriyaki noodles – ginger, honey and sesame oil flavours work their way through the dish and I’m really enjoying it.
Antonio and I still have room for dessert – he picks the green tea Mochi and, knowing Rock’s love of chocolate, I pick the chocolate Mochi. Very intense flavours, interesting consistency – well worth trying.
Good food and great company – it’s what lunch should always be about!