Jen: Vegan, farm-to-table, “plant-based” fine dining amidst luxe Melrose Avenue shopping is certainly fodder for “Portlandia” sketches and I-hate-LA rants, but if you actually take the time (and money $$$$) to make a reservation and sit down for dinner at Crossroads, you will find inventive small plates in an upscale but comfortable setting.
Most of the meat-free, dairy free dishes were completely satisfying, not skipping a beat and not missing a thing. The Squash Flatbread was hearty, with robust squash atop a crisp and substantial crust. Fall is definitely squash season, and so we also ordered the Farinata, a roasted kabocha squash and chickpea flour pancake topped with arugula dressed with pomegranate vinaigrette. The Kale Spanakopita was a favorite at our table. The phyllo was perfectly flaky and crispy, while the kale filling melted in your mouth. The artichoke dip, served with lavash crackers, fulfilled a similar contrast of tasty textures. The “Artichoke Oysters” were artfully presented: five single artichoke leaves topped with a fried oyster mushroom, artichoke purée and kelp caviar rested daintily on sea salt crystals.
Our appetites were just barely whet by the tiny portions, and so we all shared the Pappardelle Bolognese and the Tortellini. There was no meat, of course, but the pappardelle definitely approximated a traditional Bolognese sauce. The tortellini came three on a plate and were filled with almond cheese. By nature of their vegan pasta exterior (no egg), the pastas were a little mushy and lacked a toothsome al dente.
Dessert included a completely indulgent, dense chocolate (cacao) cake. Every bite was creamy and rich,and a few bites was enough to cap off our super healthy but luxurious meal.
Zorn and I (especially Zorn) would have never stepped foot in this “plant-based” restaurant had we not had a dinner date with vegan couple Cindy and Carl, but I’m so glad we had the opportunity to try it. As much as I enjoyed our meal and the welcoming ambience, the exorbitant prices will keep me from going back. I understand the price point, since it’s meant to be a fine dining restaurant, but I can’t fathom ever paying $14 for 5 artichokes leaves ever again (to break it down for you, that’s $2.80 per artichoke leaf, coming to $3.64 with tax and tip).
David: It’s not like me to go to a vegan restaurant, but when two vegan friends bring up the idea of going to Crossroads for a Saturday night dinner, written up in Los Angeles magazine for its “repositioning” of vegan cuisine, I didn’t hesitate. The full bar and cocktail menu makes this place digestible even for the non-vegan. So, before turning into a herbivore for the next few hours I started my meal with the “Cause for Alarm,” a tequila based libation from behind the vegan bar. I followed it up with a second.
The menu was comprised of about 30 small plate dishes with a recommendation of 3 to 4 per person, so between the two couples we ordered close to half the menu. They definitely get credit for creativity. I’ve had vegan versions of meat and fish dishes made from some awful soy based concoction with a cutesy name. This is not that place. They took the concept of oysters on the half shell and made a truly artful and original dish using an artichoke leaf as the shell and an oyster mushroom floating in an artichoke puree and a yellow tomato béarnaise sauce. It was good on its own terms. You can’t compare it to the real thing and that’s what I liked about it. It was just a fun creation.
The baby kale and artichoke dip with lavash crackers was exceptional. I ate it by the forkful (only because they didn’t serve enough crackers to go with it). My other two favorite dishes were the tortellini and the pappardelle bolognese. Much lighter than their not-so-vegan cousins, these Italian masterpieces hit the spot while still leaving room for everything else.
The dessert was also a winner. We tried both the peanut butter-banana-chocolate torte as well as the chocolate cake. Just a head’s up, if you like cream with your coffee (luckily I don’t) be ready for soy, coconut or almond milk as a substitute. I don’t have a lot of other vegan restaurants to compare to Crossroads, but with a price of over $60 a person, it’s a lot of green for just greens. But, if you are sushied-out and still crave a healthy meal, this is the spot for you. If you want to spend the same amount for a few steaks, go to Dan Tanas. I recommend the Helen, medium rare.