Planta is the latest in a wave of vegan restaurants to come to South Beach with ambitions beyond hole-in-the-wall digs and a plate of grilled tofu on a bed of sprouts. Among these ventures I also include Full Bloom, Plnthouse, and Soul Tavern. Each one is physically beautiful and each menu contains more than one item I’m guessing you’ve never seen at any other restaurant. But Planta, the latest among them, succeeds where the others fail. It is the only one among them that passes the following litmus test:
As a vegan when you bring non-vegans to a vegan restaurant, one of two things happens. The first is that the vegan finds herself making excuses for the food throughout the meal, constantly explaining that tofu doesn’t have to be this bland, or, great vegan cake tastes just like great non-vegan cake. The second is that the non-vegan finds herself in disbelief that the food is actually vegan and how she had now idea it could be so delicious. Signs that this is happening include comments such as “Are you sure this doesn’t contain real dairy?” or “I think I might become a vegan”.
If you find yourself in the second situation, the restaurant passed the test. Although my wife and I did not go with non-vegans, I am fairly certain Planta passes the test.
Planta is located in the posh South Pointe neighborhood of South Beach, so if you go, get there before (or stay after) and stroll the scenic South Pointe Park. We went early for a Saturday night, so don’t let the picture at the top fool you: By the time we left, it was packed. Our meal started auspiciously, as we ordered the cauliflower tots with almond parmesan. It was the type of dish that was delicious and happened to be vegan, not the other way around. That is, I could imagine it being served at Smith & Wollensky just down the street. My only complaint? I could have comfortably eaten about three times the amount they served.
For our mains we got the burger and Korean BBQ pizza. In the wrong hands, veggie burgers come served with something nutritious but boring like steamed kale salad, so I appreciate that at Planta it came with unapologetic golden french fries. The burger was good, but it’s true strength was what came on it. Again, it was a little on the small side, although I didn’t leave the restaurant hungry.
The Korean BBQ pizza had the right idea, but I think could use some tweaking. For a place that doesn’t specialize in pizza, the crust was fine (although the folks at Lucali in Sunset Harbor might disagree). The sauce will be too spicy for many people’s taste, and the dish would have benefited from being more substantive: The pieces of tofu were sparse, as was the kimchi.
For dessert we had the bonaffee pie which was unmemorable, but we finished it because it was there, and would not get it again.
Planta is the first vegan full-service restaurant in South Beach that I would unequivocally recommend. Was it perfect? No. But how many restaurants are, particularly in their first month of being open? The best compliment I can give it, which I reserve for so few vegan restaurants, is that I can’t wait to go back!