The Plant Café Organic, San Francisco

by Stevie on May 12, 2011

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The name for this stunning restaurant is a mouthful. We usually refer to it as “Plant Organic,” or more often, simply as “Plant.” There are three locations in San Francisco though I’ve only ever tried the one on The Embarcadero near the Ferry Building on the Bay. Aside from being fairly close to home, it is the single Plant with a full restaurant. Plus they offer corkage, which was one of our criteria for our recent excursion with friends. We all had trophy bottles of wine that we wanted to share with one another.

evening on the San Francisco Embercadero

evening on the San Francisco Embercadero

welcome to The Plant Cafe Organic

welcome to The Plant Cafe Organic


Plant dining room and bar

Plant dining room and bar

This place is organic but in a good way. They’re not super preachy about it and even write on their menus and web site “We are organic wherever possible,” thereby suggesting that some ingredients may not, in fact, be organic, but implying that is not the end of the world. What a relief! Sometimes things can get a bit carried away here. I’m glad that Plant has kept a sense of realism among its many praiseworthy qualities.

The restaurant itself is quite attractive: very high ceilings, gorgeous Bay views, lots of unadorned wood and stunning flower arrangements in a modern style. They’re right across the way from La Mar, the super Peruvian restaurant. Our initial idea was to stop there for a drink, then go to our late reservation at Plant. That fell through due to child-care issues for some of us, but proved to be fine anyway. I’d try to go while the sun is setting for the wonderful views of the Bay Bridge, East Bay and the islands.

Plant Executive Chef Sascha Weiss was trained in New York at the Natural Gourmet Cookery School. He worked for a time as Executive Pastry Chef at Millennium in San Francisco (another fascinating place that I want to visit soon) and was Private Chef for George Lucas, as well as having held a number of other fine dining jobs around Northern California. (That George Lucas thing is so cool!) So that should be a hint about the goodness that you can expect here.

We really like this place but I’ve been struggling a bit to characterize the food. Beyond merely “organic,” which to me implies lots of ultra-fresh veggies without any pesticides, the food has a distinct style that I associate with San Francisco. There’re a fair number of Asian influences and granola touches (the “Plant burgers” for example are meat free veggie burgers that look blood red from the beets they use to color them) all served up on stunning plates. So I’d hazard a guess and describe this as “Northern California style” fine dinning.

giant bean appetizer

giant bean appetizer

We were as excited by the food as the wine this visit. I brought a bottle of 2007 Williams Selyem Anderson Valley Ferrington Vineyard Pinot Noir that, unfortunately, didn’t show that well. Perhaps it was still too young and closed up? John wowed us with a 2002 Meshach Barrossa Valley Shiraz from Australia. But we were all blown away by Suma and Tom’s 2006 Saxum Bone Rock Syrah. That wine made all the rest seem pedestrian in comparison and it didn’t last, as you might expect.

We ordered several shared appetizers and each had a main course. The menu changes a bit with the seasons but some of the dishes are standard.

We shared the roasted red beet with spring greens salad, which we all enjoyed. With that came this exciting giant white bean crostini with a flavorful spread of green garlic and ricotta with arugula salad. I loved that.

beet salad with spring greens, walnuts and cheese

beet salad with spring greens, walnuts and cheese

Next came the crab cakes and mushroom pizza, ‘Nuf said!

wild mushroom pizza

wild mushroom pizza

I had this thrilling main: corn meal crusted tempeh with spring peas, fingerling potatoes, greens and a saffron roasted tomato sauce. This was quite refined and the tomato sauce was spectacular if in too short supply. Hegui tried the California Plant Burger with avocado and cheddar. I ordered a side of broccoli that was at its tender-best.

corn meal crusted tempeh with spring peas and greens

corn meal crusted tempeh with spring peas and greens

tender sauteed broccoli

tender sauteed broccoli


For dessert we shared the tcho baked chocolate cake with blue bottle coffee ice cream and the raw raspberry cashew cheesecake. Both tasted great.

tcho baked chocolate cake

tcho baked chocolate cake


raw raspberry cashew cheescake

raw raspberry cashew cheescake

This was a delightful evening with friends: trying new wines in a congenial atmosphere with excellent food. My only tiny qualm with Plant is the service, which tends to be enthusiastic but quite slow.

The Bay Bridge at nightfall

The Bay Bridge at nightfall

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Heavenly Housewife May 12, 2011 at 8:04 am

Everything looks so good, and busting with beautiful colour 🙂
What a wonderful restaurant to have near you (my closest restaurant is mcdonalds: that being said, i do love their hash browns, they are greasy goodness).
*kisses* HH

Suma May 12, 2011 at 11:26 am

Steven,
What a great review. The pictures are amazing! Agreed that I liked that the restaurant was not too preeechy about being organic/ vegetarian- and there are a few meat dishes on the menu whoch is great when there are a mixed group of vegetarians and meat eaters. However my husband who is usually a meat eater ordered their signature burger (home made vegetarian burger) which is so good he did not order a meat dish! Looking forward to more great meals and reviews!

LeQuan May 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Omg, everything looks and sounds SOOO good! You’re making me hungry. Haha. That raw raspberry cashew cheesecake sounds divine. I can’t stop looking at it. Glad you guys had a good time. Love the last shot – beautiful.
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