Planta (Toronto)

As an animal and food lover I feel torn: indulging in food seems to mean harming my other love. While I admire those who are vegetarian, it’s a dietary change that swings too far to the left for me. For now, my concession, to alleviate some guilt, is to go meat-less Monday to Thursdays, with some exceptions. Having done it for a few weeks now, it’s not difficult to accomplish. Especially since Toronto has been graced with several meatless restaurants over the last few years. 

Planta opened back in 2016, making news as it was started by Chef David Lee, who’s other restaurants Nota Bene and Carbon Bar (the later he has since split ties), don’t exactly scream vegetarian. It was one of the first of the first meatless restaurants that was trendy, with the higher price points to match. Their menu consists of sharable options, also main plates and salad bowls for those who want their own meal. Most dishes are very small, so for a table of two, you’ll want two mains plus a couple smaller dishes.

To get to the citrus soy used in the watermelon poke ($13.95), you really need to dig to the bottom; without the sauce the dish merely tastes like you’re having watermelon salad with avocado. Even with a bit of the soy it doesn’t seem poke-like - ours arrived missing the shredded nori, a pretty but stale rice paper chip substituted instead. Perhaps with crispy shredded nori, some seaweed salad, and sesame seeds the dish would be more reminiscent of poke. For now, it’s best described as a refreshing watermelon salad.

Having had coconut ceviche ($14.25) at a second location now, it seems strange that no one cuts it into cubes, which would be closer to how actual ceviche is made. Instead, the young coconut is served in slices making it difficult to combine with other ingredients. While I enjoyed the restrained acidity and dusting of corn nuts in the dish, there was way too much cucumber on top that it felt like I was eating a cucumber and coconut salad versus ceviche.

A must-order dish is Planta’s cauliflower tots ($10.50). They are fantastic crispy hot nuggets of cauliflower mixed with a truffle nut “parmesan” with a truffle almond cream on top. If you’re a fan of arancini, these are similar bite-sized tastes of creamy heaven.

The heart of palm used in the “crab” cakes ($20.50) gives the dish that flaky consistency you’d expect from crab cakes. Of course, they didn’t have the seafood essence of real crab, but still delicious with the light crispy panko crust and delicate texture. A lovely creamed lentil mixture sits at the bottom, infused with coconut milk for a hint of richness.

While the smoked tofu ricotta sounds interesting in the eggplant lasagna ($22.95), the smokiness throws the entire dish off. Moreover, it had a strong licorice flavour along with an earthy spice (perhaps cinnamon or cloves) that wasn’t called out on the menu. Having a distain for licorice, this is one dish I’ll pass on in the future.

The awful seasoning aside, the lasagna could have been good, the dish switching out noodles for thinly sliced eggplant and the tofu does mimic the ricotta texture with cashew crema added to smooth out the texture. I also enjoyed the tendrils of zucchini noodles, providing a refreshing crispy texture to the dish.

A healthy brunch calls for a healthy drink. Sadly, I think I went too far with the fields of green ($8.95) cold pressed juice. The menu notes it contains apple and lemon but the entire mixture really tasted like a salad in drink form – one that has tons of celery and could even pass as a Bloody Mary. Next time, I’ll stick with the suggested Planta punch instead.

With plant-based dishes as good as Planta, I could make do without meat. Alas, it’s impossible to eat at the restaurant for every meal; but at least it makes Monday to Thursday (and even an odd weekend) much tastier and saves an animal friend.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1221 Bay Street

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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