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Lonesome Vegetarian: Let’s get small at 24 Plates

Posted 12:00am on Thursday, Jul. 10, 2014

When any significant new restaurant is announced for the Fort Worth area, I immediately daydream about how we meatless types might fare there. Often I can eat only one or two dishes on any given menu, so I burn out on restaurants quickly and am shamelessly promiscuous, always on the prowl for something new.

I love dairy, but I challenged myself to eat an all-vegan meal at the new 24 Plates, which opened June 30 on Magnolia Avenue in Fort Worth with a menu of about 24 seasonal plates, some large, some small. The initial menu has no meatless main dishes, but that wasn’t a problem — we ordered five vegan small plates, and it was more than enough dinner for two:

•  Roasted kale sprouts ($5): The first time I’ve seen this newfangled vegetable on a Fort Worth menu (it’s so new, the name hasn’t quite gelled; it’s also called lollipop kale, BrusselKale or flower sprouts). It was the inevitable next step in the cruciferous vegetable craze: a hybrid of kale and Brussels sprouts. We ordered the dish made without pancetta — the only tweak we had to ask for. At least in this preparation, it tastes (and looks) like kale.

•  G-ma’s Southern-style Popcorn ($5): A vegetarian answer to popcorn shrimp, with chunks of battered and fried zucchini and okra (yum).

• House-made hummus ($7): You can’t expect hummus to be exciting, but this was one of the best versions I can remember, with spicy smoked paprika and the traditional garlic flavor coming from a dollop of pesto on top.

• Jicama salad ($7): The vegan choice among the three salads had romaine, avocado, jicama strips and an herbaceous cilantro dressing.

• Shishito peppers ($6) with lime-soy dipping sauce: a chef’s special. (Shishito peppers may have become a full-on restaurant cliche, but if they replaced fried calamari everywhere, I’d be happy.)

The staff was well-informed and cheerful about all our veggie questions. Owner Joel Kleven said the restaurant’s designer, Marta Rozanich, is a near-vegetarian and helped school him. Kleven and chef Beau Johnson were more focused on developing gluten-free options for this first menu, and came up with a flatbread crust that you can try at brunch and lunch — although both lunch and brunch have fewer vegetarian/vegan options than the dinner menu I explored. More information at www.24platesfw.com.

Two other newish restaurants are also doing vegetarian small plates, and are places where it’s fun to make small plates your meal. Sera Dining & Wine, the Spanish restaurant that opened last year in the former Sapristi! spot, has a summer tapas menu with a roasted cauliflower and leeks dish and a traditional Spanish tortilla (omelet with potato and onion), among other choices; http://seradiningandwine.com. And Bird Café has a number of interesting small plates, including a great tofu with chiles and a “Chinatown fried farro” with mushroom, ginger and egg, a nifty spin on fried rice; www.birdinthe.net.

Veggie bites

•  Meatless Mondays at Whole Foods Colleyville features vegetarian cooking demonstrations, including dishes from the “Health Starts Here” vegan program. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays. 4801 Colleyville Blvd.; www.wholefoodsmarket.com.

•  DFW Restaurant Week, coming in August, is hard for vegetarians, maybe impossible for vegans. Each participating restaurant does a three-course prix fixe menu for $35 or $45, and special requests usually can’t be accommodated. For those who eat dairy and eggs, Bijoux in Dallas’ Inwood Village shopping center is a wonderful exception. Every course has a meatless option; the entree this year is a truffled risotto with Parmigiano-Reggiano. $45, Aug. 8-31; reserve beginning July 14. Click “events” at www.bijouxrestaurant.com for the menu. Bijoux is also worth seeking out for its everyday vegetarian tasting menu, six courses by chef Scott Gottlich for $85.

Have a suggestion, a veggie news tip or a question? Send it to Marilyn at veggie@dfw.com, or follow her on Twitter, @LonesomeVeg.

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