Arata is the new-ish Japanese vegan restaurant from Matthew Kenny, the famed vegan restaurateur, who is opening multiple vegan restaurants in major cities across the globe. In New York City’s East Village he has a lock on 2nd avenue between 3rd and 4th street with Bar Verde (Mexican), Double Zero (Pizza) and Arata all in a row. I have eaten at Double Zero several times and loved it, so I was psyched to try his Japanese concept. Unfortunately, Arata is not his finest work, in fact it was mediocre to poor. With over 20 restaurants spread out around the world maybe he has overextended himself.
We tried the Maitake Mushroom and Kabocha Tempura which was disappointing, the tempura was overcooked and slightly burned and I don’t think we got a single piece of Maitake Mushroom. The kabocha was just sweet flavored mush inside a hard casing of burned tempura. The cold Soba entree did not redeem Arata. It supposedly came with peanut sauce, shisho, pickled green onions, dried kumquat, wasabi peas, barbecued king oyster mushrooms, sticky rice, chili-soy glaze, and lotus chips, but I don’t think my bowl came with half of these items. The noodles were closer to overcooked spaghetti than classic soba noodles, and tasted mainly of peanut sauce, with no acid component from the pickles or chili-soy that was supposed to be in the dish.
Arata did have some interesting beers, I really enjoyed the Yuzu Lager
Dumplings: At $16 for five gyoza, the Shitake Summer Vegetable Gyoza Arata should be turning out an amazing dumpling, but instead they were weak – that was three strikes for Arata. I am not sure what the summer vegetables were supposed to be, but the filling was a soft mush with the consistency of overcooked sweet potato. The filling had a sweet, mildly nutty flavor with no umami you would expect from Shitake mushrooms, in fact the Shitake had no discernible presence in the filling. I think the dumplings had been sitting for a while before they brought the out to us. The fried bottom of the gyoza were a golden color but were leathery rather than crispy and the steamed top part the dumplings wrappers were stiff rather then supple.
Dipping Sauce: The gyoza came with a ginger soy dipping sauce which provided a little bit of acid to the dumplings but also added more sweetness. The sauce was not really built to complement or balance the dumplings.
Location: Arata is on 2nd avenue on the corner of 4th street in New York’s East Village neighborhood. I recommend going next door to Double Zero and getting awesome vegan pizza.
I should be careful walking those dark streets of NYC – you might end up as a filling for one of those pork dumpling things!!