Arata serves robata (charcoal grill) and kushi (skewer) based foods in a modern Japanese setting. I expected typical Japanese food, but everything from the wasabi martinis to the rockfish soup blew me away. This is not your standard Japanese restaurant. The inside is smart but pretty casual, with a striking Kabuki inspired chandelier above the main dining area.
Staff were very attentive and seemed to dash between tables. The equally busy chefs are put up to scrutiny in the open kitchen, but they didn’t disappoint. Arata could be described as a fusion restaurant; yakitori and sushi rolls rub shoulders with salads and meat dishes. The term ‘fusion’ is usually an excuse to serve any random combination of food, but don’t panic, the artisanal flair put into every dish and the exciting selections of ingredients make for a unique meal out, even if you have visited every Japanese restaurant in the city.
We started with a recommended dish of mozzarella and tomato salad, made with striking tricolor fruit tomatoes in green, orange and red. The dish that followed was a more traditional yuba-age (¥650), the fried skin from tofu, with rolled sea eel inside. The delicious crispy outside and oozing inside resembles melted cheese, though much healthier.
We ordered a plate of selected yakitori, a safe bet for large groups, as everyone can sample something different. Skewers of tsukune, peppers, asparagus, and filling shiitake mushrooms stuffed with meat soon arrived at our table. Fresh from the grill, they were just perfect. We also tried a plate of grilled rockfish, which was delicious and not overcooked. The left over fish head and bones were removed quickly from our table and sent back to the kitchen, only to reappear later in a soup form to end our meal.
The drinks menu at Arata is populated with gimmicky cocktails like the shochu based ‘green tea high’ (¥600), the sake based ‘samurai cooler’ (¥500) and a ‘matcha mojito’ (¥700). But the most challenging sounding was the wasabi martini (¥700). I couldn’t resist. First off it was pink, not bright green like wasabi, and it seemed odorless. The taste was actually very nice, with the slightest kick of wasabi added to the flavor, not at all overpowering, and in a strange way completely Japanese; a foreign invention adapted and fused with native ingredients.