Upscale Vegan in Yorkville
I should be all over Planta. It is to vegan restaurants what Tonic is to health and wellness publications: modern, upscale and very Toronto. And I do like the restaurant. Naomi and I had an interesting, filling and satisfying meal. But because I’m not vegan I see the cuisine mostly in the context of its ability to simulate an omnivorous diet. Which is, I suppose, unfair. If a place just served soups and salads it wouldn’t really merit a review, and it would never work as an upscale restaurant. Planta, housed in the space formerly taken by Pangaea, is an open, casual space. Leaf patterned walls, skylights, an in-house dj, it aims to create an experience. The Chase Restaurant group and Chef David Lee are behind it. So the pedigree is good.
The best way to enjoy Planta is to go in a group and share the food. The appetizers are great. Dividing up the mains, some of which on their face, don’t seem sharable, will ensure your meal will be interesting. Our server, who enthusiastically told us which dishes were the ones to get, recommended the Coconut Ceviche and the Watermelon Poke from the small plates list. We tried the Poke ($13.25) and were not disappointed. Served with smashed avocado, nori chips and citrus soya sauce, the savory elements of a traditional raw fish dish were on the plate; the watermelon standing-in for the fish. A bright and flavourful dish.
The Cauliflower Tots ($9.75) and Queso Dip ($10.75) were the recommended snacks. The Tots were the best thing we ate that night. Deep fried and sprinkled with truffle parmesan, with a lemon aioli dipping sauce, they are not to be missed. The Queso dip is an engineering marvel. Served with traditional corn chips, black beans, peppers and onions, you’ll swear that you’re eating melted cheese. But you ain’t. Made from potatoes and nutritional yeast and a long list of other ingredients, I could not stop eating the queso (the dish dispels the myth that vegan food isn’t filling - best ordered for groups of four or more).
Naomi had the Habibi Salad ($17.25); cauliflower couscous, split-pea fritters (think falafel), lentils, parsley, mint, coriander, currants, sumac and a tahini dressing. If you like middle-eastern flavours and lots of pulses, this salad is for you. On the recommendation of a friend I had the Planta Burger ($18.75). Maybe I was too full from gorging on Queso (seriously) but I didn’t love the mouth-feel of the soft patty, which was slathered with more queso. The accompanying spiced fries were very good, though.
I wasn’t really craving dessert. But our server convinced us that the Chocolate Terrarium ($11) was worth making an exception for. And of course, I was mindful that you, dear readers, would be expecting some sort of dessert report. Served in a clear glass bowl, a dairy-free chocolate mousse is paired with peanut butter cream, chocolate cake, salted caramel and fresh raspberries. Get it for yourself. Don’t share with the group.
Jamie Bussin is the Publisher of Tonic Magazine. The last time he regularly reviewed restaurants he ballooned up to 242 lbs. That's not going to happen again.