At Plant Food + Wine, Matthew Kenney’s sleek vegan restaurant on the quieter end of Abbot Kinney, there is enough cashew on the menu to feed a vegan army. There is cashew cream and cashew cheese, whole cashews and cashew puree—and whether you enjoy Plant Food + Wine might depend on how much cashew you’re willing to eat. For vegans, the picturesque indoor-outdoor restaurant offers a haven for animal-free eating and drinking. For non-vegans? It all depends on what you order.
Many of Plant Food + Wine’s dishes are almost too pretty to eat. The kimchi dumplings arrive looking like origami fortune tellers, three neat little packages made from dehydrated Thai coconut and stuffed with tangy kimchi. A coriander ginger foam oozes out of their tops while a splash of beet sauce turns the plate into some kind of pop art piece. Oh, and they taste good, too—light and clean, they’re an excellent start to lunch or dinner. Plunge your spoon into a beautiful carrot soup topped with vadouvan almond crunch, a little pickled ginger lending some zing to the velvety puree. These are both better than the cheese plate, though I suppose any cheese plate at a vegan restaurant is going to be a sticking point for those who love actual dairy. Fennel crackers don’t seem to taste like much of anything—even fennel—and the cheese spread, which arrived as a mix of smoked cheddar and white truffle wedges from Flora Artisanal Cheese, lacked the textural benefits of real cheese. At least the mustard seeds and pickles kept things interesting.
I’m a sucker for cacio e pepe, but in my head it is always a tangle of hearty pasta doused in pepper and cheese. So it was with apprehension that I ordered Plant Food + Wine’s version, comprised of raw kelp noodles and snap peas, pea tendrils and dehydrated olives. I shouldn’t have been worried—the pasta is incredibly satisfying, made creamy with a blend of cashews (more cashews!) and olive oil, so that each twirl glistens like a non-vegan version of cheesy spaghetti might. A rotating selection of tacos is also offered; on my visit, sweet potato tacos were filled with sunflower chorizo and heirloom beans, while a few weeks later a cauliflower version appeared. There are grain bowls and raw zucchini lasagna and, if you’d rather have the chef choose, there is a tasting menu with five courses available for $65 per guest ($90 with a wine pairing).
Dessert can be distracting when the staff continuously roams around your table, moving heat lamps and reconfiguring tables and sweeping leaves from the floor right by your feet. But if you can get past that, the passionfruit cheesecake is a nice finish to the meal. Sure, you may only be able to eat half of it, because you’ve already eaten your weight in cashew cheese at that point. But its pistachio crust is addictive, whether you’re a vegan or a vegetarian or just someone with a really big sweet tooth.
What to Eat: The kimchi dumplings ($15). The carrot soup ($10). The cacio e pepe ($22).
What to Drink: If the thought of a vegan or raw meal doesn’t appeal to you—or perhaps to a friend you’re bringing along—the wine list is convincing enough. Varietals here are all organic and biodynamic, and span the globe from Spain to Croatia, Australia to Napa. Among the sparkling, rosé, red and white bottles, there are also cocktails (many sporting kombucha as a main ingredient). The fermented beverage comes courtesy of Kombucha Dog, made in Downtown LA, and you’d be wise to ask for it on tap as well—I couldn’t get enough of the ginger kind.
Where to Sit: There’s no better place to sit than the outdoor patio, where sunshine sifts through sloped olive trees and diners can get a glimpse of Plant Food & Wine’s garden. Inside, a small fireplace offsets marble tables and booths lined with comfortable pillows.