Located on the north-east side of Bay Street and Bloor (in the former beloved Pangea Restaurant) at 1221 Bay Street, is a new concept by the Chase Hospitality Group, called Planta. The menu there is entirely plant-based – using no animal products in their food. What makes me most happy is the Chase Group was smart enough to hire Executive Chef David Lee, one of Toronto’s (and all of Canada for that matter) best and most talented chefs.
They totally transformed the decor into a light and bright space. The restaurant seats 165 people including the 32 seat private dining room in the back. The atmosphere is fun and relaxed and with touches of wood and bronze accents. When the weather is nice they open a garage type door up front. The floor is black and white checkerboard and the chairs and benches are done in a beige faux-leather that is tasteful, with lovely accented fabrics. They kept the bar in the upper area and added more seating than the prior setup allotted.
David Lee’s menu is globally inspired with items from all parts of the world. He uses techniques that are associated with meat and fish and applies them to vegetables, like braising, searing, grilling and smoking. So for instance, when you order the coconut carpaccio you would swear that you are eating fish carpaccio – the texture, taste, and presentation is like that of fish. He has so many interesting choices on his menu and I think that this is Toronto’s most upscale vegan restaurant. Steven Salm who is the president of the Chase Group is there to oversee that things run smoothly. They have been packed since the moment they opened and Steven is doing a fine job of making sure things run smoothly.
The pizza we tried called the Frenchie had mushrooms, squash, cashews, mozzarella, arugula and truffle oil. Because the dough is made with organic K2 milling and 00 flour, the crust tends to be super crisp and not tender, but the pizza had great flavouring. The Habibi Salad was an excellent cornucopia of ingredients including a cauliflower couscous, split pea fritters or falafel, lentils, parsley mint, currants, and za’atar in a tahini dressing. It was a palette pleaser and a tantalizing mixture. Another salad we tried was the Harvest Salad, which was a mix of brown rice, caramelized squash, chickpeas, roasted peppers, cranberries, Napa cabbage and crunchy pecans in a balsamic dressing.
The Watermelon Poke, was a riff on tuna poke, substituted with watermelon cubes, avocado, and homemade taro chips. This was a light starter. A standout for us were the Cauliflower Tots, and I am not even a cauliflower fan normally. The cauliflower was puréed, deep fried and topped with a dollop of creamy Parmesan cheese.
The Spraghettoni Pasta with zucchini, pumpkin seeds and tomato salsa was a little bland and overlooked for my taste. The Planta Burger, was actually made with black beans and mushrooms and made to resemble a beef burger. It had a good mouthfeel but because of the lack of eggs was a little soft and messy to eat, but tasty nevertheless.
One of our desserts was served in a half of a coconut, and was light and refreshing. The other dessert we tried was a dark chocolate and peanut butter dish that resembled dark earth and the fruit looked like vegetables growing in the garden.
The wine list is 100% biodynamic and organic, plus there are fresh pressed juice and mocktails. The wines are priced by the bottle in price categories of $45, $65, $80 and $85+. I opted for a refreshing cocktail called Aloe Views, that had gin, elderflower, aloe vera, ginger beer and lemon balm, and was served in a copper cup.
Planta is a great option for vegetarians and healthy eaters, but it doesn’t cater to this group exclusively. I don’t fall in those categories and I enjoy eating there. It is just an amazing alternative with tasty food, in a pleasant setting in a great Yorkville-area location.
I found the dishes aesthetically pleasing, creative and innovative. The Chase Hospitality Group is setting new standards.