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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

Crossroads Restaurant R: We pulled up to the Crossroads Restaurant on Melrose Avenue, handed the valet the car keys, and strolled around the corner to the entrance on Sweetzer Avenue. Because the summer evening was still bright at seven o'clock, the foyer felt dramatically dark. As our eyes adjusted to the low lighting, we could see the stunningly designed main dining room. It's a charmer!

Crossroads Restaurant Z: Rectangular and spacious, the room is gorgeous with its elegant dark wooden bar and booths, and tables complete with white linens. Old-fashioned wing-back chairs provide the ultimate in dining comfort for the long row of tables closest to the bar.

R: Those glamorous chandeliers and attractive lighting over the bar really add a special touch to the décor--actually, they're the finishing touch to an elegantly designed dining area. Opened only since February 2013, the restaurant is enjoying a terrific response. On the Tuesday night we came, the restaurant was in full-activity mode with diners who, like us, were curious to experience Chef Tal Ronnen's renowned talents and creative menu.

Z: We were escorted to our table in the more intimate Wine Room, a wing off the main dining area that enjoys bright, natural lighting from the retractable roof. This room was pleasantly quieter than the main room where the noise level is higher, though it's possible to engage in conversation without shouting.

R: The Wine Room is my kind of room with one wall devoted to displaying wines and liqueurs in three uniquely designed dark wooden cases. Some of the bottles were resting on their sides on tilted shelves, while others were standing. The walls, too, were specially designed stark white tiles arranged in herringbone pattern. The overall effect was cordial and inviting.

Z: At last Los Angeles can claim two upscale, all-vegan restaurants with nationally known chefs--Tal Ronnen and Matthew Kenney. Is vegan Los Angeles finally coming of age? We say, "Yes!" Turning our attention to the menu we saw a note at the bottom that read, "Nuts, wheat & soy are used in preparing items on this menu," and suggested those with allergies talk to their server. Many of the dishes can be made gluten free, and all items are made with seasonal ingredients.

Crossroads Restaurant R: We chose a number of dishes from the menu that features "small plates" and shared with our friends Lionel and Diana. First to arrive was the Housemade Pickled Vegetables, quickly followed by Artichoke Oysters. They weren't kidding about small plates. The artichoke platter consisted of five artichoke leaves arranged in a star pattern radiating from the center. The leaves were resting on a bed of rock salt crystals. At the base of each leaf was a small mound of artichoke puree drizzled with a very tasty yellow tomato béarnaise, and a tiny tuffet of kelp caviar.

Z: In the center of the platter was a mysterious, burgundy-hued fluff of ultra-fine shreds. We guessed it might be beets or possibly cooked red cabbage. Color and design-wise that little fluff was the perfect garnish to complement an outstanding dish.

R: The pairs of pickled vegetables possibly brined in a vinegar and salt bath consisted of sticks of carrots, green beans, and turnips resting on four quarters of a pickled cucumber. Paper-thin radish slices and a celery tops added the garnish.

Crossroads Restaurant Z: Served on a rectangular plate was the bowl of Tomato Watermelon Gazpacho, garnished with a dollop of almond Greek yogurt, vegan, of course. The tiny accompaniment was a bowl of minced red and green bell peppers, cucumbers, and red onions. The verdict--guilty of being extremely delicious!

R: The dish that ran off with our taste buds and dazzled us all was the exquisitely conceived Crab Cakes. The three little golden-crusted, mini-muffin-like cakes were made of hearts of palm, beets, and apples, and deep- fried. Drizzled with basil aioli and topped with charred corn relish, the crab cakes were infused with delicious flavors that lingered in our minds well into the evening. We still continue to ponder them.

Crossroads Restaurant Z: Our foray into the land of innovative small plates continued with Spiced Chickpeas that touted a distinct Mediterranean influence with oven-dried tomatoes, a hint of zesty spice, and a tiny dollop of garlic butter. Our server suggested we stir the garlic butter into the chickpeas to enhance the flavor. We did--and it did heighten the experience.

Crossroads Restaurant R: The Ragu, one of the pricier items on the menu, was attractively served in a mini cast-iron skillet placed on a large white dish. Underneath the delicious slow-cooked pomodoro tomato sauce and chunks of eggplant and kalamata olives was a bed of farro, a variety of wheat that grows in Italy and may even date back to biblical times. This very tasty dish is also offered in a gluten-free version.

Z: Another of our happy moments was biting into the Kale Spanakopita. Classically a Greek dish, Spanakopita is a baked filo triangle filled with spinach and cheese. Chef Tal created a delectable blend of finely ground kale and almond cheese and used both to fill tiny filo rolls that looked like fat, two-inch long cigars.

Crossroads Restaurant R: The last of our small hot plates, Milanese, was from the Comforting Classics portion of the menu, and because of its large size, it was the easiest to divide into four portions. Milanese is a large, round, crisply breaded faux chicken cutlet. Piled over the center was a two-tone salad of warm green arugula, pastel yellow chicory endive, and cherry tomato halves. It made a grand finale to our dinner.

Z: As we were concluding our dinner, daylight was fading and the warm lighting cloaked the room with a comforting glow. Because Dessert was a must, we chose Chocolate Ganache Tartlet and Fig Trifle. Filling a tiny, crisp, two-inch tartlet was a rich, thick, and delicious chocolate mascarpone. Piled over the chocolate filling was a heap of spiced caramel popcorn, which seemed unfitting, but looked great.

R: The Fig Trifle is a sensational and elegant dessert served in a clear glass, typical of traditional English trifle. Layered with ladyfinger cake, mascarpone, and blueberry balsamic reduction, the trifle was topped with fresh figs and a sprig of fresh mint. It was so deliciously satisfying we ought to have ordered a dozen of them!

Z: Chef Tal and his team of designers didn't miss a thing. Crossroads is an exceptional dining spot that has all the accoutrements one could desire in an upscale restaurant, including a fully stocked bar. The menu is a delightful exploration into flavors, colors, and textures that offer adventurous Angelenos a taste of edgy vegan dining with a creative flair.

Crossroads Restaurant
R: Since the menu is seasonal, diners can look forward to exploring new dishes throughout the year. Because this is a restaurant of special quality, expect to pay a little more. Breads, Soup, Salads, and Flat Bread Plates range from $5 to $12. Small Hot Plates are $6 to $14. Comforting Classics $12 to $18. Desserts are $5.

8284 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046
Phone: 323-782-9245
Hours: Monday through Wednesday 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Thursday through Saturday 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Sunday 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Website: http://www.crossroadskitchen.com

Reviewed July 2013

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