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Dish of the Week: PLANTA Queen’s Dan Dan Noodles

Vegging out on vegan eats
Jenna Baer | Staff Photographer
PLANTA’s dan dan noodles serve up a mouthwatering balance of coconut curry and wheat ramen noodles.

Vegans tired of veggin’ out on stale tofu are in luck — PLANTA Queen’s West End location serves a variety of complex, plant-based Asian dishes.

Located on New Hampshire Avenue across the street from popular bagel chain Call Your Mother, this swanky sit-down eatery is part of a national chain of high-end vegan restaurants founded by GW alumn Steven Salm. The restaurant prides itself on its array of plant-based sushi, dumplings and hearty noodle dishes making a menu that expands vegan options around campus without compromising on flavor or another hip atmosphere.

Dressed in a sleek black exterior with tinted windows, the large, open restaurant draws the eye to a warmly lit bar in the center, accented by triangular shelves stocked with wines and spirits. U-shaped imitation leather booths with black marble tables line the dark floral walls as ferocious neon-lit dragons stare hungrily at patrons’ meals.

When we arrived at 7 p.m. on a Saturday, the restaurant was nearing its peak as the booths filled up and smaller tables in the center of the room were claimed throughout our meal. While not overly crowded, chatter bounced off the walls, intermingling with soft pop music as waiters brought small plates to the youthful crowd.

After examining the expansive menu, we enlisted the help of our waitress for her favorite appetizers. We took her advice and started with a spicy tuna roll ($15.75) and the torched and pressed roll ($16.75). Enticed by the golden brown skin of 1,000-layer crispy potatoes ($14.25) that were delivered to a nearby table, we quickly added them to our order, too.

Ideal for family-style sharing, the spicy “tuna” roll, made of ahi watermelon, came with eight pieces on a dark, shimmery dish accompanied by a sweet, mild mayo. The roll consisted of coconut and avocado, wrapped in white rice, mirroring a typical California roll.  We were surprised by the sugary aftertaste, having anticipated a smokier flavor.

In contrast, the six-piece torched and pressed “roll,” several small rectangles of vinegar-soaked rice topped with avocado and truffle miso glaze, leaned into an umami palette. The saltiness of the truffle glaze complemented the tanginess of the rice.

The 1,000-layer crispy potatoes consisted of four square-shaped pieces cut into light layers, topped with sour cream, chives and imitation caviar. Each layer of the potatoes was soft in contrast to their fried shells. The crunch of the crispy outside mingled with the cooling sour cream to produce a delectable hodgepodge of soft and crispy that simultaneously felt rich and light on our tongues.

While waiting for our main courses to arrive, we lightly sipped on three specialty and sassily named cocktails. In a tall, cool glass, the sunset-colored Kombucha Mojito ($15) arrived, mixed with rum, berries, mint, lime and berry kombucha. The sweet berries overwhelmed the bitterness of the rum and sour lime juice, making it taste more like a mocktail than a cocktail.

The Lych Please ($15) was similarly light, mirroring a boozy hibiscus tea with hints of grapefruit that were undercut by a sprinkling of sugar and sea salt along the rim of the short glass. Meanwhile, the Mez-cal Me Maybe ($15) was a strong play on a margarita, as the ginger liqueur and mezcal fused to make a spicy chaser.

Though PLANTA is known for its vegan rolls, the star of the show was the dan dan noodles ($21.50), a filling balance of coconut curry and wheat ramen noodles. Expertly blending herbs like cilantro with red pepper, the creamy coconut sauce had whispers of spice but was not overpowering. Notes of garlic and sesame oil also cut through the decadent flavor of the coconut milk, creating a tangy palate.

Swimming inside the aromatic sauce within the deep metal bowl, the al dente noodles and nutty Szechuan-style Kamut provided a crunchy bite in every mouthful. We couldn’t help but fight over the silver serving tongs for who could pile their plate high with this ample entrée. 

PLANTA has several enticing dessert options to choose from, including a matcha cheesecake with whipped coconut cream ($14) and a bubble waffle sundae featuring taro ice cream ($15). In an effort to be healthy, we opted for the Singapore noodles ($19.75) as an additional entrée instead of ordering dessert. This medley of thin wheat noodles, crunchy green bell pepper, sweet sautéed onions and crispy shallots created an earthy, peppery finish to our meal.

Rather than being forced to scour a menu for the single vegan or vegetarian dish, which sometimes can mean settling for an order of fries, PLANTA reconceptualizes what veganism looks like. 

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About the Contributor
Jenna Baer, Contributing Culture Editor
Jenna, a senior majoring in creative writing, is the the 2023-24 contributing culture editor. She previously worked as a staff writer and cartoonist. She is a Houston, Texas girl through and through.
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