Vegan celebrity chef and purveyor of “plant-based diet” cookbooks Matthew Kenney unleashes more vegan eats on the East Village today with the opening of his new restaurant Arata. After vegan-ifying pizza and Mexican food in the neighborhood, he’s now taking on Japanese food and other Asian flavors in a sleek 75-seat space at 67 Second Ave., near East Fourth Street.
Kenney says the food is “inspired by Japan,” though with “a lot of liberties, especially since we’re not doing any animal products.” The “sausage” in the spicy udon bowl is made with Sichuan tempeh. Wakame becomes “caviar” on top of a spicy carrot sushi roll, while Kenney’s hoisin is cashew-based in the smoked oyster mushroom bun. On the brunch menu, there are “yakitori,” which really means skewered grilled chicken, but Kenney’s version is made with shiitake and king oyster mushrooms. A yuzu- and cashew-based sauce stands in for hollandaise in another brunch dish.
As for drinks, sake on tap and Japanese whiskeys reflect the restaurant’s Japan-inspired outlook. Cocktails, with vegetables of course, are also on the menu, in full here.
Arata — not to be confused with Midtown East’s Arata Sushi —joins Kenney’s mini vegan empire in the East Village, which includes pizza spot Double Zero and Mexican restaurant Bar Verde next door. This is his first foray into the flavors of Japan, and the Japanese dining scene in NYC is already vibrant and crowded, especially with so many restaurant imports coming over from Japan recently. But non-vegan restaurants of the cuisine “are well represented,” Kenney says, so according to him, Arata offers something different.