Ever since Madeleine Bistro went more or less underground, LA has been sorely lacking in gourmet upscale vegan dining options. We’re lucky enough to have a plethora of casual vegan restaurants and even some fantastic new veg-friendly hotspots like the swank The Village in Studio City, the incredibly delicious STREET on Highland and Melrose, and the ever-scrumtrulescent Mohawk Bend in Silver Lake. But 100% plant-based places are rarely all that fancy, and sometimes a vegan wants to get her high heels on and be able to eat more than three things on the menu, you know?
Enter Crossroads. No, it’s not based on the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony song, nor on the Britney Spears vehicle, nor the used clothing trading company. It was founded by none other than vegan megachef Tal Ronnen, whom I can personally attest to being 100% good dude. The Conscious Cook author/Gardein golden boy has created a beautiful yet unpretentious setting in the Fairfax/Beverly Grove area that serves all-vegan cuisine and gets me that much closer to my dream of being the world’s foremost vegan gourmet restaurant critic. This Friday night the hubs and I were lucky enough to get a reservation on the second night it was in business and I’m so, so glad we did. Forgive the quality of my crappy cell phone photos – it’s dark as a mother in there. Moby was eating there at the same time, NBD. Bottom line: the place has a few kinks to work out, as does any in its early days, but overall it’s fantastic.
The restaurant itself is just gorgeous. Tal and the other founders clearly paid a lot of attention to detail. The bar is the focal point of the main dining room, and I’d be happy to wile away a few hours here chatting it up with the friendly bartenders.
Our reservation (DEFINITELY make one) was for 9 PM, and we ended up having to stand at the bar and wait for a good half hour for our table. I’m pretty forgiving of slow/disorganized service when a place is brand new, and it ended up giving us a few moments to hang out and try the drink options. Some of these beverages were downright crazypants – they were out of the Caprese Smash and I really wanted to try a concoction with 9 ingredients, especially one with Sriracha bitters. I ended up going with the Punch Lyfe and the Mr. got an old-fashioned. Both of us agreed they were THE BEST EVER and immediately ordered a second round. I ended up getting the Sunset & Vine the second time around, which looks super pretty on account of the beet juice, but tasted sorta eh also on account of the beet juice. The Punch Lyfe seriously was amazing and I’d get it again in a heartbeat, and the hubs’ old-fashioned was no joke the best I’ve ever had.
After being seated we ordered about a billion dishes. One thing to note here – the portions are not just small, they are TEENY. Some dishes are bigger than others, of course, but for the most part you’re going to be getting just a bite or two off each plate. Again on the service, it was somewhat poorly timed. We ended up getting four dishes at once, which of course didn’t all fit on the table, was a little uncomfortable, and not to mention made us look like total hogs. First up was the kale spanakopita.
These were nothing short of goddamned delightful. The little tomato fondu (say that in as obnoxious of an accent as you can for full effect) was creamy, rich and thick, and the little spanakopita (you have to press your fingertips together and move your hands up and down while saying that like you’re in an old racist cartoon) were crisp on the outside and full of creamy, chewy kale on the inside. We both oohed and ahhed over these babies. I could have eaten about twelve of the little two-bite rolls.
We saw a couple at the table next to us eating this, and had to get it for ourselves. The texture on the cauliflower was just perfect. It was almost like a BBQ chicken pizza, but vegan and for grownups. Definitely would get this dish again. This was probably the biggest dish we had, and luckily one of the tastiest.
I was really excited about the cheese plate, and ended up being a little disappointed. The serving size was ample, and I enjoyed the accompaniments, but the cheese itself left a bit to be desired. It was just way too springy. Too much agar or carageenan or somethin’. The cheeses weren’t labeled, but from their facebook page I can guess that the red-rinded one in the center was their Costanoa and the one on the far left was the Cassucio. The White Alder (in the foreground, with a mottled white rind) was the only one I really enjoyed, as it was creamy and rich and spread nicely across the little multigrain bread provided. Still, I think they’re all worth trying because new vegan cheese duh.
The mini crab cakes were teeny tiny, barely two bites each. Our only complaint with these was that the texture of the veggies inside was a little bit off – they were just barely too firm and too big, which was a bit distracting, but the flavors were on point. It reminded me quite a bit of a dish that Fatty’s used to serve that I dearly miss. Don’t know that I’d get these again, but they were nice.
The spiced chickpeas were also a bit weird in the texture department. I don’t know if they were undercooked, but they just seemed a bit too firm. The parlsey garlic whip was a lovely complement to the spicy red sauce, but in the end I wasn’t crazy about these garbanzos. And you know how I feel about garbanzos.
Even though we had ordered enough dishes to keep our waitress busy all night, we agreed we were still hungry after all that and ordered the papardelle. This dish ended up being my least favorite, sadly – the sauce was just way, WAY too salty. And I LOVE SALT. Both of us WHOAED Joey Lawrence-style upon our first bites. The flavors were great, the veggie meat crumbles were great, the pasta was great – but the salt level just threw everything off. I probably would have enjoyed it just fine if not for that. Hopefully it was just a one-time mistake and not the way it’s supposed to be made.
The dude at the table next to us ordered all four desserts on the menu and ate all of them by himself. Not to be outdone, we ordered some of our own (though not all four, which I still regret bitterly.)
First of all, OMG SO CUTE. The desserts are itty-bitty (and only $4 a pop!) so don’t feel guilty at all for ordering one of them after eating here. Or all of them. The chocolate bundt cake was super rich and dark – in fact, the cocoa level was a little too strong and bitter, and I’m a dark cocoa fiend. But once I got to the ooey gooey caramely center I couldn’t help but exclaim OMUHGAH at that. It was ridiculous. In the best way. And the carrot cake ice cream? GOOD LORD SO GOOD. Absolutely delicious. Also, the little slices of carrot are candied and they’re bunny ears. GET THIS DESSERT.
Overall, I really loved Crossroads. There were a few hiccups but that’s more than understandable during the very early days of a restaurant. I really believe this is going to be the new vegan place to be, and know that my non-veg friends wouldn’t complain about eating here. The atmosphere is really classy, the food and drinks are bomb, the bartenders all wear cute suspenders, and the bathroom sink is mad fancy.
Well done, Mr. Ronnen and company. I’ll be back soon!
8284 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046