R: While we were traveling and enjoying the pleasure of L.A.'s delightful emerging summer weather, a triple vegan community popped up on the corner of Vine Street and Fountain Avenue in the Hollywood area. In this strip mall of eclectic restaurants and shops, Cruciferous, Doomie's, and Cocobella Creamery, all vegan eateries, combined efforts to enhance our wonderful vegan world.
Z: Though our review will focus mainly on Cruciferous, we would be remiss not to mention that Cruciferous benefits from menu enhancements from both Doomie's and Cocobella Creamery.
R: May 1, 2017 was the official grand opening of Cruciferous, an all vegan dining house that takes an adventurous dive into innovative vegetable plates intended to be shared. In recent years, small plates featuring magnificent vegetable creations seem to be a driving force of Los Angeles restaurants, and no two menus are alike. We've found it impossible to compare them, with each offering fabulous dishes prepared in unique ways. Even non-vegan restaurants have taken a fancy to vegetable plates.
Z: Our June evening at Cruciferous was pure delight from the moment we were warmly greeted by a smiling tall man in a black apron and black baseball cap. He showed us to our table along a wall with bench seating. That soft-spoken man was Shane Stanbridge, one of the chef-owners of the restaurant. The room was dominated with black walls on one side and featured comfortably padded bench seating covered with black fabric and mostly black pillows. The opposite wall was white and featured free-standing tables and high-back chairs upholstered in black.
R: White tablecloths, white dishes, and white napkins define this inviting locale as a place to dine, while savoring each dish at leisure. Also greeting diners at each table is a decanter of chilled water. We sipped water from Mason jar glasses. One glimpse and we recognized this was not a casual, grab & go, fast-food eatery, yet it didn't wear the stuffy attitude of some of the upscale restaurants either.
R: We arrived while the daylight flowed into the room from the large front window. As the light faded, the room became warmly intimate. Within moments, Lucie, our friendly server for the evening, brought us an amuse-bouche of Parsley and Nigella Crisps served on a small plate that reminded us of black and white granite--it was actually an attractive, hand-crafted ceramic dish.
Z: The crisps were formed from a rice flour base and dehydrated. Then they were dropped into the deep fryer for only moments and arrived at our table crisp as can be and tinged with a pastel green contributed by the parsley. We relished this small gift from the kitchen and watched with curiosity as fascinating dishes were brought to the tables on either side of ours.
R: While we had peeked at the menu online, we knew that restaurant servers were skilled at making excellent suggestions. Lucie mentioned the Bread and Butter was one of the restaurant's signature dishes, along with Gloria's Whole Roasted Cauliflower. We took her suggestions with pleasure. We were both drawn to the General Tso's Brussels Sprouts, so included that as well.
Z: Though several of the other offerings had great appeal, we wanted to save room for dessert.
R: The arrival of the General Tso's Brussels Sprouts was a moment of excitement! The presentation was gorgeous and appealing without being overly fussy. Dipped into a coating of flour and potato starch and country-fried with small red chiles, these vibrantly seasoned Brussels sprouts were glistening with a bold sweet and sour sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Z: Nestled into the black ceramic bowl and cuddled up next to the Brussels sprouts was a lightly dressed salad of baby greens. Two paper-thin slices of Korean radish added the finishing touch. This is a specialty that has everything you could possibly desire in a vegetable dish--robust flavor, a variety of pleasing textures, a light touch of spice, and seductive eye appeal--a winning quartet.
R: I like the fact that there were more than two bites in the dish. It was just right for sharing with the two of us, but it would even be ideal if there were four diners sharing.
Z: The Bread and Butter presentation was a showstopper. Tastefully plated on a long wooden board were large, thick slices of housemade sourdough bread with a crusty exterior and a buttery-soft, plush interior with giant holes.
R: The accompaniments to slather on the bread were so enticing: a mound of almond ricotta garnished with fennel fronds, a dash of homemade, whole-grain mustard, and a splash of claret-red tomato-onion jam. The corner of the board held a tiny white cup of whipped cultured butter made from amaranth rejuvelac and olive oil lightly seasoned with salt.
Z: Adding texture to the board were wedges of fresh crisp radish and a tiny dollop of pickled vegetable we couldn't identify. There was also a tiny spray of kosher salt to sprinkle over the toppings. This offering brought bread to new prominence--anyone who has baked bread from scratch, especially sourdough bread, can agree this is a soul-satisfying, earthy delight--we certainly did.
R: Our final vegetable dish was the gluten-free, soy-free Gloria's Whole Roasted Cauliflower delivered and carved at our table by giant-knife wielding Chef-Owner Shane--and it really is a whole cauliflower including its leaves and core. While most home cooks toss the leaves and much of the core into the garbage disposal, Chef Shane proves there's no waste in this dish because it's edible to the core.
Z: The cauliflower is first blanched in a vegetable broth to tenderize it. Then it's rubbed with smoked chili and herbs and roasted until it turns a rich chestnut brown. Usually the cauliflower is served on a bed of cultured cashew cream cheese, but with Reuben's cashew allergy, Chef Shane substituted with a well-seasoned, creamy almond yogurt.
R: This exquisite showpiece was tastefully garnished with thin, delicate pink slices of pickled radish and fennel fronds--gorgeous accompaniments to delight the eye and add color and flavor accents. The final touch was the chef's light drizzle of pistachio oil over the top. We feasted and savored and enveloped every bite including the roasted leaves and core made tender and delicious through the complex cooking process.
Z: Between the Bread and Butter and our two vegetable dishes, we were more than sated, yet dessert called loudly. Our last indulgence was a sweet treat from the dessert menu, a trio of Kabocha Squash Doughnuts. Thank goodness they were small and practically bite-size. Because they took extra time to prepare, Chef Shane brought us each a tiny dish containing a miniscule scoop of black sesame ice cream made by Cocobella Creamery. It was bathed in a heavenly blueberry sauce--that delicious little treat would have made a delightful dessert all by itself. The combination of flavors hinted at a tasty chocolate sauce.
R: Created by Doomie, the doughnuts were swimming in a shallow, green pool of basil-enhanced almond milk. Each corner of the dish held a generous dollop of sweet, hibiscus-poached winter melon, while the tops of the doughnuts were brightened with pink drizzles of hibiscus frosting and sprinkled with crushed pistachios.
Z: Who knew kabocha squash could morph into a delicious little doughnut! We loved so many moments of the evening we spent at Cruciferous and predict a rosy future of patrons who love that the chef comes out of the kitchen and talks to his patrons. And the trio of chefs, Shane Stanbridge, Marie Chia, and Doomie, are not camera shy either, as Reuben took a quick photo of the three innovative partners ready and willing to contribute a big smile to our readers.
R: Cruciferous has adopted a gratuity-free policy, a feature that may soon be coming to many more restaurants to create a more equitable system for the restaurant's employees. There is a 20% service charge added to the total food ordered. Next time we visit the restaurant we'll look for our fun server, Lucie, in the kitchen where she usually works but was filling in as server on the night we came.
Z: The strip mall offers convenient parking, but we went green and took the Metro Red Line to the Hollywood and Vine station, giving us the opportunity to stretch our legs by walking a few blocks.
R: Dishes are priced between $12 and $18 with most diners ordering about three to four items to share for dinner. The three main desserts are $9 each. Also offered is a scoop of Cocobella Creamery ice cream in a housemade shrub or soda.
Reviewed July 2017