Oplante (Montreal, QC)

As you can see from our recent review, we again found ourselves heading up to Montreal for a weekend of particularly excessive Quebecois dining. This usually leaves me craving a lighter, healthier meal at some place, and in the past, we’d often hit up Yuan Vegeterien for some light vegeterian-based Japanese and Chinese food. We decided to do that again this trip, and ran into a slight hitch: Yuan isn’t quite there any more. Around January of 2022, it re-branded as Oplante. It is mostly the same concept, but shifting from vegetarian to vegan, and focusing more on serving all-you-can-eat buffet-style food (although they still offer an a la carte menu, which is what we ordered on).

On the grand scheme of things, Oplante hasn’t changed much from it’s Yuan days; indeed, various places both in and outside the restaurant still have some of the older Yuan signage, so it’s more of a re-branding than a new concept. It’s the same distinctly funky interior, with a spacious dining area filled with all sorts of sculpted concrete arches and pillars, and at least on the a la carte side of the menu, while focusing a bit more on sushi than before, has a good selection of appetizers, stir-fries, and sushi rolls, all made either featuring vegan ingredients, or at least vegan ingredients resembling meat product (this I’m not always excited about; with a few exceptions I generally find the tastiest vegetarian food is that which doesn’t try to make vegetables resemble meat, but just work with them on their own level, like the awesome wild rice burger at Fitger’s in Duluth, MN). Still, they had a lot of great options, so we ordered several appetizers and main courses to share at the table.

First up was an order of Tofu Frite (fried silken tofu). This was crisp, flavorful, and delicious, with a nice core of silken tofu that was lightly flavored and nicely breaded, and a good example of what I like in a good tofu dish: it was flavorful and tender, but still focusing, and not hiding, that this was tofu you were eating.

Next up was some tomago sushi (egg omelet sushi), in this case the egg actually being a vegan egg substitute. I’ve noticed in recent years that several of the mung-bean-based egg substitutes are actually pretty good for making egg-omelet-like creations, and this actually worked out nicely: the “egg” was tender, the seasoning light, and the roll nicely assembled. I’d happily get this again.

Next up was the General Tao’s Tofu, nominally the same dish as the chicken classic but with tofu. I had high hopes for this, since I’ve had some pretty spectacular renditions of this dish (particularly at the chain Big Bowl), but this left me a bit disappointed, since to me the essence of this dish is getting a nice, crispy finish on the tofu. This was only lightly seared, and while the sauce and veggies were good, the tofu was disappointing enough that this downgraded what would have been a good dish to one that was just “okay”.

But things got better with the Teppanyaki “Anguille” au Shiitaké (Mock eel and mushroom teppanyaki). Served up with two different preparations of shiitake mushrooms, this had all the crispiness I really wanted in the General Tao’s, with a rich, deep sauce nicely combining with both breaded strips of shiitake and segmented shiitakes with peppers and broccoli to make a rather nice dish. This was definitely worth getting again.

Finally, while we didn’t actually get the buffet, it’s worth a mention, since the standard technique Oplante uses to serve buffet customers is to have them order online and send the food out on a robotic platform with a cat face on it. You couldn’t help but be amused by the robotic cat server roaming the tables.

Overall, despite the rebranding, Oplante is pretty much on-par with the previous incarnation of Yuan. While there were a few hiccups, the food was generally flavorful, well-prepared, and a nice counterpoint to much of the heavy, fatty, and meat-laden meals of the rest of our visit. I think this is going to stay as one of our go-to places.

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