Planta Queen, the much-anticipated sister to Planta on South Beach, is set to open on Saturday, November 7, in the newly refurbished CocoWalk in Coconut Grove.
The 160-seat restaurant, designed by ICRAVE, draws inspiration from traditional Chinese courtyards. The space is broken up into two main areas: the front bar and dining lounge and the main dining room, overlooking the street. Windows on the first floor circulate fresh air throughout the room.
The restaurant, led by Steve Salm's Chase Hospitality Group and cofounder and executive chef David Lee, shares the same DNA as the Toronto-based Planta in its commitment to serving plant-based food and cocktails in a vibrant setting. The difference is that Planta Queen offers Asian-inspired dishes, whereas the original Planta serves a variety of dishes, including plant-based sushi.
"It's what you would imagine if you were going to an Asian-inspired restaurant," Lee says of Planta Queen. "We have a dumpling program, we have a sushi program, we have noodles, rice, and salads, and we have wok-fired dishes."
Lee says the only difference between your favorite Asian restaurant and Planta Queen is that all the dishes are vegan.
According to Lee, you won't miss the meat.
"We don't sacrifice on flavor," he promises.
Lee adds that a lot of thought goes into each dumpling and noodle.
"It's very important that when we create a dish, it's not just putting a bunch of vegetables together on a plate," he says.
Ingredients are also important.
"There's some vegan food out there that puts together like 15 ingredients, and you don't even know what you're eating," he says.
And although Planta Queen's colorful sushi plates may look like seafood, Lee is quick to point out that his goal is not to mimic flavors.
"To me, a piece of fish tastes like a piece of fish. To try to re-create it is gimmicky," he insists. "The only thing I can reproduce is texture."
Lee uses the classic avocado stuffed with crab as a perfect example.
"In the Planta world, we have a beautiful dish where we stuff an avocado with hearts of palm and shave truffle on it. Isn't that great? Miami loves truffles, and they happen to be vegan," he adds.
Lee, who says he's a pescatarian, admits he's not vegan. But he went on a plant-based diet for six months in order to understand how a person who follows a plant-based diet eats.
"I felt great," he reports.
He says his diet is about 50 percent plant-based now and he believes everyone should eat a vegetable-forward meal at least a few times a week.
"I'm not preaching you should be 100 percent vegan, but I also think that two days a week, it's a good idea to not have animal products," Lee says.
To that end, Planta Queen aims to offer food that carnivores can get behind — like the "Queen Roll," made with spicy hearts of palm, avocado, cucumber, tempura; potato truffle dumplings; a bao burger with hoisin sauce, lettuce, pickled cucumber, and fries; and "General Lee’s Cauliflower," with bell peppers, onions, ginger, and sesame.
A curated cocktail menu and nondairy soft-serve for dessert round out the experience.
The restaurant, which opens Saturday, is located in the newly upgrade CocoWalk. Lee says he and his partner chose Coconut Grove for its beautiful tree-lined streets and proximity to downtown, Coral Gables, and Kendall.
"Coconut Grove is a great neighborhood, and we know we're going to attract people from Brickell, Coral Gables, and the suburbs," he says.
Though the menu is varied, Lee has some suggestions as to how best to experience Planta Queen.
"You need to start with some sushi and experience the dumplings. No matter what, don't forget the soft-serve for dessert."
Planta Queen. 3015 Grand Ave., Coconut Grove; plantarestaurants.com. Open daily 5 to 10 p.m.
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