1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd,
Venice, CA 90291
By GABRIELLA BOCK | Reporter
Photos by CONNOR BOCK | Special to the Palisadian-Post
There are very few times when a bite of food will cause tears—make the dish vegan and the chances become even slimmer. But as I spooned the first morsel of Plant Food + Wine’s Vegan Tiramisu into my mouth, I soon found myself preaching to the table next to me.
Yes, culinary gods do exist, and I, while sitting in Venice Beach, became a devoted believer.
Plant Food + Wine is the whimsical love-song of chef Matthew Kenney. With 10 published books sitting underneath his coat, Kenney’s craft of gourmet, raw-vegan fare is delicately tuned to appease even those who would much sooner forsake their own name than eat rabbit food.
So when my husband and I sat down among the ethereal gardens of the restaurant’s outdoor patio space, we asked our server, Kate, how many times she’s catered to clients who found themselves surprised to learn that the “cheese plate” they had ordered didn’t actually hold anything made with dairy.
Kate, a vegan herself, told us that the menu can be deceptive to those who aren’t aware of their surroundings. Apparently, the more ambiguous dishes, such as the Barbacoa Tacos, tend to confuse the walk-in, tourist diner—an occurrence that oft requires a moment of conciliation before the dining process can commence. Patient and knowledgeable, the staff at Plant Food are confident they’ll earn the trust of their guests, and if they don’t—as Kate so casually worded it, it’s just food, after all.
But I had full faith in whatever was coming my way.
And when Kate suggested that we start with a plate of hot Cashew Raclette to smear across grilled sourdough, I didn’t protest. Instead, we asked for more items that we could cover in the melty “cheese” spread and we were prompt
ly brought a plate of Kimchi Dumplings, which we were told usually sell out, even on weeknights.
In lieu of wheat, the kimchi was housed in a wrap of dehydrated coconut fruit and cilantro. They sat elegantly atop a purple cabbage puree and were artisanally finished with ginger foam and homegrown edible flowers.
The flowers, along with many of the vegetables found tucked into Plant Food’s menu, are grown alongside diners, who, if are in need of seconds, can reach down and pluck a few straight into their mouths. In its charm, Plant Food gives a whole new meaning to the farm-to-table concept.
For dinner, we went bold with the Heirloom Tomato and Zucchini Lasagna, a vertical garden that came carefully stacked with a “ricotta” made from macadamia nut cream and was topped with fresh marinara and pea pesto.
To make sure Kate hadn’t led us astray, we also tried the aforementioned Barbacoa Tacos. I was pleasantly surprised by the texture of the “pork”—which, instead of tofu or seitan, was made from shredded mushrooms and held true to its claim.
Upon our server’s recommendation, we ordered a side of the Grilled Carrots, which were blackened, seasoned with pastrami spices and came plated with a spicy horseradish aioli.
Other main entrees included Spicy Udon, a Mushroom Burger with carrot ketchup and Black Pepper Kelp Noodles.
Stated in its name, Plant Food + Wine offers guests a variety of red and white wines, but what was most impressive was learning that their list is comprised of libations from chic, small-batch California winemakers. To this end, their selection is ever evolving and seasonally sound. The restaurant does not have a full bar, but does provide a small variety of colorful cocktails made with sake and cava.
As with all good things, our meal drew slowly to a close, and as I took that last mouthful of tiramisu, the table next to us ordered two for themselves. Apparently, with our oohs, ahhs and voiced applause, we had converted two new believers of our own.