While visiting St. Louis for work , I knew I wanted to take time to explore what vegetarian restaurant options the city might be hiding. After investigating online and perusing several menus, I decided upon Araka located in downtown Clayton in Carondelet Plaza. Additionally, I absolutely could not leave without catching up with my dear friend and St. Louis PR maven, Priscilla Visintine of Carden Group Communications. As soon as I suggested Araka, she piped up stating that it happened to be one of her favorite places in town. When an endorsement like that comes from Priscilla (or Lady V as I prefer to call her), you know you're in for a good experience.
As soon as I arrived, I was greeted by the fabulous hostess who had enough snap and pizzazz to put anyone in a good mood. The weather was PERFECT for outdoor dining as we enjoyed dinner on the patio to the sounds of Three Pedros. Both Lady V and I agreed that they had a great sound, were perfect for the venue and performed at a volume that still allowed you to converse and socialize with dinner companions. My favorite tune was their creative cover of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know."
Spanish Springs Rolls at Araka
Being a vegetarian, I can normally view a menu and make my choices within just a minute or two. Not so much the case this time. The variety of vegetarian options in every category left me quite indecisive. Lady V and I started with Spanish Spring Rolls (calasparra rice, watercress and fresno-saffron aioli) and both ordered the Seared Tofu which came served with coconut black rice, oyster mushrooms, zucchini and a red pepper-citrus salsa. The crispy wrap of the spring rolls around the spanish rice made for a tasty pairing. The seared tofu was a bit flavorless but instantly burst with flavor upon pairing it with the chilled red-pepper citrus salsa. The coconut black rice was a complete surprise and visually a bit intimidating. However upon tasting, it had a sweet flavor that surprisingly complemented the flavors of the rest its entree partners. Previous to this, my only experience to black rice had been in East Asian desserts so I was surprised to see it elevated from dessert to entree status. Other items on the menu that I wished to sample try are the Crispy Tempeh Bites, Roasted Cauliflower Soup, Chilled Avocado Spinach and Sorrel Soup, and the Wild Mushroom Potstickers.
Warning to vegans and lacto vegetarians, the pasta is made in-house and contains eggs as does the aioli on the spring rolls. However the soups all have a vegetable stock base and the rice is also boiled in vegetable stock. Many restaurants use chicken and beef stocks as the base for their soups, so I greatly appreciate the occasional opportunity that I get to indulge in a soup offering.
Overall, I would likely be a repeat offender of Araka given that the food we sampled truly was fantastic and I still have additional options yet to enjoy. Additionally, the menu is diverse and makes it accessible for people of all dietary preferences. Other locations might be best should you find yourself with limited time on your hands as the fare and ambience at Araka are best experienced at leisure.
Images complements of Araka.