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Araka-STL

I am going to Araka in Clayton next week with a group of women. Has anyone been? I don't know anything about it other than what I saw on their website.
http://www.araka.com/

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  1. I spoke to someone that went, and they said it was really good. They specifically mentioned the pizzas as being great at lunch.

    Let us know.

    Bill

    1. Always interested in a good new restaurant possibility, particularly in Clayton. So I checked out the website -- some of it was under construction, but they did have their dinner, lunch and other menus. PET PEEVE -- no prices! Called the restaurant late afternoon, got a hostess type. Asked for a manager or better, an owner. They are all "In a meeting." Left a message, no call back before closing time. Not an auspicious beginning.

      9 Replies
      1. re: nosh

        Yes, the lack of prices seemed to worry me too. Plus it seemed to me that the website paid more attention to the design of the restaurant than to the food.

        1. re: shannoninstlouis

          Unbelievable. Called again just now -- 3 p.m. on a Sat, lull time. Got a hostess type again. Asked for a manager or owner again. Told again none were available. She wants me to leave a message -- I said yesterday's wasn't returned. "Well, what is so important?" Told her I had seen the Chowhound posting, looked up their website, and the menus had no prices. She says the prices are "tentative," it isn't her department, and now she'll find me a manager... No thanks.

          Actually, all too believable.

          1. re: nosh

            While that's certainly not great, I think it's important to remember that they just opened. Opening a restaurant can be a real pain, and although it sounds like they're having a communication issue, we're still only somewhat into week two for Araka. I'm sure the manager is incredibly swamped.

            I can tell you that their chef has worked at Citronelle in DC and Larkspur in CO in the past, and those are both impressive restaurants. Obviously it would depend on what he did there. If he was the dishwasher that's no big deal, but I don't get the impression he was in speaking to those who've spoken with him.

            Anyway...the menu reads well, and if they can deliver on what sounds delicious, they will be a nice addition.

            I'm certainly not one to stick up for a restaurant when they've done something bad, and if anything, pluck out the negatives even in a great place, but I do agree that there's a founded reason critics don't go places in the first month. allowing them time to start following on all cylinders.

            Edit:
            I will say I just called them and asked them to fax me one with prices, and the hostess wasn't really grasping the reason I might want it. I've called Craft in NYC though, and gotten the same sort of confusion, and that's one of the 25 best restaurant in NYC...so oh well. I'll try and come up with a way to get one so we're all know.

            Shannon...if you beat us to going, ask for a menu. I've only ever been one place that wouldn't let me have one.

            1. re: bobzemuda

              Now I am on a mission! I will be going with a group of ladies on Thurs. evening so I'll report back then. Aye Aye Cap'n.

              1. re: bobzemuda

                I certainly can understand the difficulties in starting a new restaurant, or any new business. That wasn't the focus of my criticisms.

                First, being new is all the more reason for posting prices on the website, even with a disclaimer that they are subject to change. As I've written on threads about this topic, it is only to the restaurant's advantage, since I usually overestimate the price level when they are omitted.

                Second, though a professional critic shouldn't base his or her reviews on the first weeks when the kitchen and front of the house are getting their kinks out, a restaurant is establishing its reputation from the start. The first time I called (about 5 p.m. on Friday) the hostess-type said all managers were in a meeting with the servers. I left a message asking for a call back, leaving my number. The second time I called (3 p.m. on Saturday) the same hostess-type answered and again said all managers were in a meeting with the servers. (Obviously a line.) When I told her my previous message hadn't been returned, she borderline sarcastically asked "What could be so important?" When I explained my concern about the website not having prices, she gave her bull excuses and then asked me to hold on a moment so she could get a manager. If her haughtier than thou attitude and cluelessness extends to the management, you may want to think twice before checking the place out.

                1. re: nosh

                  I have a menu with prices (which has in fact changed somewhat) and photos of at least the actual lunch menu from today. I'll post them on the blog later with pics of the restaurant.

                  oh...and it was good.

                  1. re: bobzemuda

                    And here you have it, pictures and menus:
                    http://www.stlbites.com/2007/10/15/a-...

                    1. re: bobzemuda

                      Okay, now I am a bit more excited about this place. It sounds great.

                      1. re: shannoninstlouis

                        I can't wait to go back. Fortunately my birthday is next Wednesday so I think that will be excuse enough.

                        Bill

        2. Okay. I am back from Araka. We sat in a large semi-private room in the back of the resto which was pretty nice. The decor is quite well-planned and adventurous; someone obviously sunk some bucks into the plan. The service was warm and competent, although I cannot fault them for anything because I was in a large group of women, notoriously difficult to make happy. I had the lamb papperdelle. The noodles were quite al dente, which is how I like it, although some may have found them undercooked. The menu specified a mint gremolata and unfortunatley it seemed to be missing from my serving. I'm not normally a mint fan, but I think it would have added a dimension to the dish.

          I left at 10 and the bar scene was quite crowded with Clayton's beautiful people. I would definitely go back to sample more of the entrees, particularly the duck, although I felt slightly less than beautiful. I noticed the website (linked above) now states prices!

          2 Replies
          1. re: shannoninstlouis

            I can confirm that the online menu now includes prices. And as I mentioned this is another case where they are far more reasonable than I'd have feared -- salads under $10, pastas low teens, most entrees hovering around low twenties. Wonder if my calls or diatribes on this board had any influence...

            1. re: nosh

              I just went to Araka with a friend tonight, and we had a nice time! We sat in one of the booths in the bar area - nice and quiet! I had the skate, and my friend had the strip steak, plus we split the bibb salad. I can't recall seeing skate on a menu recently, and the presentation and flavor was outstanding! My friend intended to take the rest of her steak with her - the portion was very big - but, unfortunately, we went to the ladies room after we were finished, and when we returned to our table, they had taken the plates away, including the left overs. Oh, well! The creme brulee for dessert was outstanding! Service was so-so, but considering that they have just opened, it was OK. I'll definitely go back again!