Chef David Lee and the Chase Hospitality Group have joined forces to open Planta, a brand new plant-based dining experience in Yorkville at 1221 Bay Street. With over 150 seats in a large and funky designed space plus two separate private dining rooms, this restaurant offers a fully vegan menu, but they refer to everything as plant-based and the attentive team were clearly new to this kind of cuisine and very excited about serving it.
Lucky enough to attend a preview before the official opening on Friday, September 16th, 2016, I was able to try 8 of the dishes from the fairly large, fun and interesting menu. What all dishes had in common was that they were all plated and presented beautifully, and had a variety of colours, flavours and textures.
My mother enjoyed two different cocktails, but was really happy to learn that their wines are organic, sustainable and biodynamic. Maybe in a few years that will make me happy too, but for right now, I stay focused on the food. I did most surprisingly enjoy doing a shot of beet, pineapple and lime juice, considering I don’t like beets or pineapple – it seems that trying things with an open mind is worth it!
The first dish that we were served was Chickpea and Polenta fries. As soon as I saw that there was za’atar sprinkled heavily on the top, I knew this would be awesmazing and it definitely was. I tried to eat slowly, dipping each lightly fried stick into the accompanying lemon aioli, made with a creamy almond milk base, but they all disappeared within moments of them arriving at the table. I did capture a few pictures first at least. I highly recommend you share these with whomever accompanies you to Planta.
Next came the Poke Bowl, which I would say was my favourite dish of the night. The combination of compressed watermelon, smashed avocado, jalapeno, fresh herbs and toasted nori was the perfect flavour combination. It was also served in a bowl over crushed ice, making it very pleasing to look at. With this dish, I tried the roasted beets served over cashew crema topped with pumpkin seeds and dehydrated olives with a side of arugula. My mother loved the beets, which are definitely not my favourite root vegetable, but I loved the crema and crunchy bits and the super fresh arugula.
Then the Potato and Kimchi dumplings arrived in front of me with a little bowl of a bright green condiment that looked and smelled great and I knew before I took one bite that they would be great, and they really were. The dumplings were crispy and fried, but not heavy at all. I dipped my first dumpling into the little bowl of sauce with confidence that I would love it, and it still exceeded my every expectation. There was a zing of spiciness followed by the taste of the kimchi filling. I knew there was coriander and chilli pepper and soy sauce, but found out that it was the fresh lime that made it “pop”.
A pizza called “The New Porker” arrived on a wooden board, cut into 6 pieces. Although it wasn’t heavy on the toppings it was really enjoyable. The white oak smoked mushrooms definitely added an element of complexity to the flavour of this pizza made with organic flour. I would like the pizza a lot better if there was a little less outer crust so I could focus on the great tasting toppings.
A classic Caesar Salad was served next and was quite large, and very delicious. The dressing is super creamy, made with cashews and lemon juice, but the standout ingredients were the pickled red onions and the white oak smoked Portobello mushrooms. If you like Caesar Salad, you’ll like this version of it.
The food kept coming…and I was delighted! The Crab Cakes that arrived were substantial and made from hearts of palm and cauliflower served over a bed of sautéed greens and corn. The texture of the crab cake was really great. My mom makes hearts of palm crab cakes at home, so it was familiar to me, but I really liked Planta’s fried version, over our home-baked ones!
I probably should have stopped eating at this point, and our great server had suggested bringing us dessert, but there was one more dish that kept passing us by that had piqued my interest and I really wanted to try it. The Queso Dip, made with carrot and sweet potato was baked in a cast iron pan, then topped with veggies, black beans and more cashew crema, and served with housemade corn chips. It was delicious and even had a cheesy texture.
By this time, you can only imagine how full I felt, but taking my responsibility as a blogger seriously, I knew I had to at least try dessert to let you know if it was worth it. Let me tell you that if you have not eaten the majority of 8 other dishes off Planta’s menu, get your own dessert to enjoy. Of course, I had eaten the majority of 8 other dishes, so although the Chocolate Terrarium was awesmazing, I could not eat more than a few bites. It was layers of chocolate, peanut butter and there were chunks of chocolate brownie, caramel and raspberries. Every bite was heaven.
Overall, Planta was delicious, the location is great, the space is funky, the service was fantastic, and we all need to eat more plants. I hope you make a reservation and go and enjoy as much as I did.
(side note about allergies: although they do use a lot of nuts in their kitchen, and in many dishes, they will soon have a separate menu with their nut-free options, and are confident in their ability to accommodate, so I look forward to being able to go back with my sister who is allergic to nuts!)