The Plant: Whimsical name, seriously good food _lowres

Advocate photo by GEORGE MORRIS -- The Plant restaurant in Plaquemine offers a whole new take on shrimp and grits.

First, a confession: We’re kind of partial to businesses with a hint of cleverness in their names. Not having been to The Library bar off LSU’s campus, we still can’t help but enjoy the wry joke as students tell others of their evening plans.

So, if you’re opening a place in Plaquemine, virtually in the shadow of the enormous Dow Chemical complex, and you have the same sense of humor, what do you call yourself?

The Plant, of course.

Now, a whimsical name doesn’t a restaurant make. The food still has to satisfy. Based on our recent visit, The Plant has that part of the equation covered.

Since grilled oysters were that evening’s special, we got a half dozen ($8.95) as an appetizer, and they did what an appetizer should do — stimulate the taste buds and leave the diners in anticipation of what’s to come. These were grilled with some grated Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil, and came with some lightly toasted bread sticks, all the better to sop up the savory liquid left behind.

Tempted as we were to order some gumbo, a cup of crab and brie soup ($7) caught our attention. We’re glad it did. It came to us hot but not scalding, thick with brie and chopped crab meat and accented with finely chopped celery and some orange bell pepper, which was attractive as well as flavorful. This would be a divine soup for a cold day, and worth ordering no matter the weather.

Shrimp and grits ($18) have become a popular combination in restaurants, and most that we’ve encountered cook the grits with cheddar and/or some other sharp, tangy accent to play off the mild flavor of the shrimp. The Plant has a whole new take on this. About a dozen blackened shrimp tails were arranged in a circle on the outside of a molded mound of grits covered with smoked gouda, tomato-basil sauce and “Abita barbecue butter,” which we imagine includes a dash of the regional brewmasters’ product. Any one or two of these is intriguing. The combination made this most memorable. It’s possible for kitchens to be too clever for their own good. This was not one of those times.

Some of the menu titles seem selected as plays on Dow worker lingo rather than descriptions of what you’re ordering. The Helper ($16) was blackened redfish topped with sautéed crab meat and Creole Meuniere sauce. It’s hard to go wrong with seafood topped with crab, and this was quite good, and served alongside potato casserole and steamed vegetables.

The fried shrimp basket ($12) provided a generous portion of plump shrimp tails that were covered in a thin, crisp batter with a jolt of black pepper, and came with French fries.

Though our visit was in the evening, we imagine The Plant does a pretty good lunch business, and the Plant Burger ($8) was an interesting variation on a familiar theme, mostly because it was served on a jalapeno sweet roll. The bread had more sweetness than tang, but it worked nicely, and the large slab of ground meat was accented with grilled onions, pickles, tomato and some of the most finely shredded lettuce you’re ever likely to see. We’d order it again.

The chocolate molten cake ($6) was advertised as being topped with raspberry sauce and fresh raspberries. We noticed neither, but contented ourselves with a piping hot chocolate cake in a ceramic dish with chocolate sauce, making it both chocolate and molten. It was rich and large enough for two to share.