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SAVOR Plant-based spot Planta Queen
by Andrew Davis

I will admit it: I was skeptical about dining at the River North spot Planta Queen (413 N. Clark St.; Website Link Here ;.

Although I do love my meat, I have occasionally dined at vegetarian/vegan spots—and, usually, I've been disappointed (including a visit to a Michigan Avenue restaurant that I took a similarly upset vegan to).

However, Planta Queen (which stresses it's a restaurant that's plant-based, not vegetarian/vegan) might change some minds. It changed mine.

At this Asian-themed spot with an upscale vibe, my dining companion and I decided to start with the sushi and chose the crispy rice. Interestingly, instead of tuna, there's dehydrated watermelon. (When I posted that on Facebook as well as a photo, one person responded, "Food looks appealing, but the phrase 'dehydrated watermelon' may be the saddest words I've ever read." I understand.) However, the dish itself was very impressive and boded well for the rest of the meal. We also tried the Torched and Pressed—with avocado and miso truffle glaze—and it was also appealing, although we liked the complex crispy rice a little more. (Dishes are served with tamari, a gluten-free/vegan sauce concocted from fermented soybeans.)

We also dabbled with the dumplings and tried the crispy gyoza, which contained cabbage, carrot, cilantro, mushroom and chili soy. Not only was it tasty, but cutting through the crust was somehow pretty satisfying.

As for the entrees, I went for the truffled-fried rice (with mushroom bacon, peas, egg and, of course, shaved black truffles) while my friend opted for the chili peanut noodles (with hearts of palm, jackfruit, bok choy, sesame doubanjiang sauce and cilantro). The rice was absolutely delightful (and the leftovers were almost as good) while my friend delighted in her noodle dish.

However, the dishes we tried were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, with other items ranging from pineapple-fried rice to California roll (with toasted coconut) to General D's cauliflower. (Incidentally, there are a couple dishes made specifically for Chicago: cucumber tataki and the mapo mushroom.)

And, yes, there are desserts. The matcha cheesecake was more to my friend's liking; for me, the flavor and texture were lacking a little bit. However, we both definitely loved the brownie sundae (gluten-free, of course); it was hard to believe that something this decadent could be from a plant-based spot—although suddenly I remembered the desserts at the longtime vegetarian/vegan spot The Chicago Diner.

By the way, the drinks were also pretty cool. I could've drunk several kombucha mojitos (which had no vinegary taste/aftertaste at all) and my friend loved her drink(s) as well. I also saw another diner who seemingly really enjoy her drink—Saki To Me, served in a maneki-neko (or "waving cat") cup.

The manager informed me that other Planta spots are being planned, including one that focuses on burgers and another that emphasizes Mediterranean cuisine. All I can state is that this new spot has made a promising start.

Note: This visit was arranged.

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