At Planta Queen in Dupont, watermelon is disguised as tuna, fried mushrooms are masked as fried chicken and taro is presented as shrimp. Confused? Me too. But somehow, it works.
Planta Queen opened its Washington, D.C. doors in April 2023. The sister restaurant to Planta, the 100% plant-based chain, Planta Queen has a smaller menu that focuses on Asian-inspired dishes: sushi rolls, pad thai, gyoza and more.
While all the food is made from plants and other natural ingredients, I can promise no one will leave hungry. Like many other Asian cuisines, the food at Planta Queen is meant to be shared among a small group, giving you the opportunity to try a wide variety of dishes throughout the night.
After being seated in one of the many booths at the trendy spot, our group of four was pleasantly surprised to find out we were there on “Pour Decision Wednesday” — a.k.a. half priced bottles of wine all day. The restaurant offers several of these discount deals on food and drinks throughout the week.
Aside from the variety of wine offerings, the cocktails at Planta Queen are worth noting. Beautifully crafted with pineapple slices and tajin salt, they are definitely strong. For those under 21, the spot offers 10 non-alcoholic options, including cold-pressed juices and free spirits.
Starting the night off strong, we ordered the crispy rice and spicy tuna roll. My unsuspecting friend was shocked to find out both dishes were made from watermelon sauteed and marinated to mimic the taste and texture of tuna. She was confused at first, but hardly hesitated before taking a second piece.
Insisting on ordering a vegetable for the table (yes, I know everything is already plant-based), I put in an order for the bang bang broccoli. The broccoli was perfectly crisp from the frier and covered in peanut sauce. I would return for this dish alone.
After riding such a high from the first three plates, we were extremely disappointed by the crispy gyoza. The dumplings had such potential — filled with cabbage, carrots, mushrooms and a chili soy sauce. But they lacked flavor and ended up being one of the more underwhelming dishes of the evening.
When it came time for mains, we were drawn to the two dishes with truffle flavors: udon noodles with truffle mushroom cream and shaved black truffle, and the truffle fried rice with shaved black truffle, mushroom bacon, peas and egg. The first was a hit; the second needed some doctoring.
The noodles were swimming in a deliciously rich and creamy truffle sauce with mushrooms. The ratio of sauce to noodles was a bit off as we were left with almost half a bowl of sauce. The truffle fried rice was also disappointing at first bite — it lacked the same truffle flavor as the noodles. However, we problem-solved and put the leftover sauce from the udon noodles over the rice. Once we figured that out, the dish went fast.
Dinner was extremely filling, but we had to try a dessert before departing. After contemplating the seasonal pumpkin cake, we decided on the chocolate brownie and the bubble waffle sundae. The chocolate brownie was just that — a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge and a cherry. It was tasty for a plant-based brownie, but nothing too special or out of the ordinary.
While a few dishes disappointed us, Planta Queen made up for it in the form of a bubble waffle sundae. The taro ice cream was mildly sweet and creamy with a hint of vanilla and topped with crispy rice cereal, strawberries and a black sesame caramel. As the ice cream melted, the waffle soaked it up for the perfect bite.
Despite a couple mediocre dishes, there were enough standouts to put Planta Queen in my rotation of restaurants. On top of the great food, they offered great service. Every dish arrived quickly and hot and the servers were eager to answer any questions or provide recommendations.
Planta’s founders opened the restaurants aspiring to make plant-based eating both accessible and delicious. With something for everyone on the menu at Planta Queen, they have most definitely achieved that goal.