The marrow dish at the plot, with potato "bones" and kale stem "marrow"
Once upon a time, before people wore protective masks outside the home, there was a new North County restaurant at the top of everybody’s must-try list. Given another week of open dining rooms, I would have joined the legions of foodies beelining to South Oceanside to check out The Plot, the latest restaurant from the bright minds behind unorthodox sushi bar, the Wrench & Rodent.
1733 South Coast Highway, Oceanside
It’s pretty rare for a vegan restaurant to generate the kind of buzz The Plot has, since opening at the end of January, testament to the following inspired by chef Davin Waite. At Wrench & Rodent, Waite unleashes boundless creativity on raw seafood, inviting customers to taste the fish in new ways, often in combination with locally sourced, even foraged produce. So this new restaurant begs the question: what might happen when that kind of energy is applied to a 100 percent plant-based menu?
Caviar on potato cakes, but the only beluga are the lentils.
That limitation is further constrained by a no-waste mission envisioned by the chef’s wife, and vegan activist, Jessica Waite. Which means this menu seeks ways to incorporate parts of the plant most restaurants might throw away: think stalks, skins, and peels. And beyond all that, the challenge to make vegan food look great on the plate.
Alas, despite the extra day in February this year, my plans to witness the plated results fell a few days past the stay-at-home order. I had missed out until who knows when? Unless: The Plot pivoted to delivery and takeout, and the new amenities of our era: online ordering and curbside pickup.
Opened just before the coronavirus outbreak, The Plot quickly transitioned to a take out restaurant
Well, after closing temporarily, that’s what’s emerged with The Plot Express, the take-out rendition of the restaurant. Though not ideal to experience these dishes for the first time out of take-out containers (compostable), circumstances seemed to demand it. Why drag out my curiosity if I didn’t have to?
First, I went for the sushi rolls. Vegan sushi is a new trend in San Diego, and chef Davin knows the medium. I’m usually too snobby to order a California roll, but this vegan take breathes life into the concept, with “crab” made from lion’s mane mushrooms (grown by local purveyor Mindful Mushrooms).
A vegan California roll, made with lion's mane mushroom "crab"
Outside the sushi menu, the potato cakes and caviar appetizer won me over, replacing the caviar with beluga lentils, which don’t pop in your mouth the same way but glean some splendid brininess with the help of seaweed.
Vegan fried chicken and waffles and a meatless meat loaf will lure me back when doors to restaurants reopen. But if there’s one entree I had to see for myself, it was the “marrow dish,” because how to you get marrow without bones?
Waite and chef partner Christopher Logan have come up an answer: kale stem. Which, when you think about it, is about as close to bone as you get when it comes to leafy greens, and usually at its best discarded. Here, seasoned and pureed into a sort of gooey emulsion, the stem is poured into hunks of potato cut to resemble hunks of bone. Except instead of a dark, red center, these bones bleed a deep green, and the flavor follows suit, coming off like a chlorophyll concentrate. It makes a meal, served with slaw and white beans for $15.
I’d never have conceived of eating potato and kale together, but that’s why I was willing to drive 40 miles through a pandemic: even stuck at home, I want to see what the inventive chefs of the world are up to.