PLANTA / by Didier Young

The food chain is something that is simple to comprehend. Plants take in the minerals and nutrients from the earth and are then eaten by small herbivores. Medium predators prey on the former and are in turn the prey of larger animals, including humans. That is the gist of it. Over the years, humans figured out ways to obtain additional by-products from animals up and down the ladder. Milk is harvested from the cow and made into cheese and their hides are turned into wearable goods. However a subgroup of the population chose to forgo some steps in the food chain and to go back to its roots. The term veganism was hence born and allowed for the rise of food institutions such as PLANTA.

Designed by Steven Salm, the president of Chase Hospitality Group, and East Studio, the restaurant is located in the heart of Yorkville.  The beautiful wallpaper designed by Candice Kaye creates an organic backdrop for the beautiful tiles, intricate copper chairs and the black marble bar where an assortment of cold pressed juices are displayed. Other forms of vegetation are also present in the restaurant. One of the walls is verdantly adorned with pockets of greenery while a singular banana tree reigns prominently over this indoor oasis.

A few trips to the restaurant had been made prior to this particular brunch. The dinner menu consisted of some highly attractive items such as the Habibi salad, the watermelon poke and a smoked carrot hotdog that held an uncanny resemblance in looks and flavour to its legitimate kin. This enticed me to give their brunch a try. Typically, brunches evoke images of bacon and eggs,so I was definitely interested to see what the plant based institution had to offer for the weekend breakfast meal.

We started off with a Carrot cake smoothie which surprisingly smelled like its namesake but should probably be renamed to Banana cake smoothie. This liquid appetizer was followed by the cauliflower tots. The creamy cubes were a fantastic opener to our meal and one could imagine the “parmesan” to be parmesan. Next came the nachos and its usual tortilla chips, beans, avocado and cheese. The twist? The cheese is actually a cashew based concoction made to resemble the dairy product. The dish was tasty but the “cheese” failed to make much of an impression and was overshadowed by the puréed beans. The potato hash was a nice side dish to have during brunch. Drizzled in maple syrup and Sriracha, the crispy potato cubes had the right amount of kick without scaring off patrons who might not be inclined to spicy food.

Off with the small plates and in with the large ones. The Harvest Salad was reminiscent of fall with its assortment of squash, cranberries and pecans and was finished off with a balsamic dressing. The salad had the right amount of flavour thanks to its toppings and would be the perfect option for someone who was looking for a lighter meal. The avocado toast failed to make an impression. Toasted rye bread, plain mushed avocados and cherry tomatoes do not necessarily bring in enough flavour complexity to elevate the dish. The Crab Cake Benedict was equally forgettable. I hear fantastic reviews of the dinner version of the dish and I had been looking forward to trying it out but unfortunately I could only discern the taste of ginger while eating it. The Land Lox pizza, on the other hand, was quite brilliant. Chef David Lee somehow smoked the carrots in such a way that they tasted exactly like smoked salmon. Paired with capers and onions, this dish was the one that felt the most like brunch.

We finished off our meal with desserts. The Chocolate terrarium consists of raspberries, chocolate mousse, peanut butter cream, toffee pieces and golden peanuts and it was quite the crowd pleaser. The Young Thai Coconut was my favourite out of the desserts and tasted quite distinctly asian with its chia seeds, coconut milk and jelly and passion fruit sorbet. The Avocado Lime cheesecake,served with raspberry sorbet, was a bit too sour for my taste but I can see it appealing to the lovers of sour pies. Last but not least, we had the Smoothie Bowl, a light dessert option that was potentially too light in flavour.

Like a good harvest, PLANTA reaps a crop of good flavours with the exclusion of some dishes that could use some ripening. The ever changing plant based menu might still be a tad too green and could benefit from a few additional seasons. Only time will tell if PLANTA could become the fine vintage that it is destined to be.

-Didier