Simply put, Crossroads is a high-end vegan restaurant for carnivores. Plant-based chef to the stars Tal Ronnen—he counts Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres as clients—is reinventing meat-free meals with flavorful and imaginative dishes that are reasonably priced and served in a cozy, white-tablecloth Melrose Avenue dining room that have been drawing in a surprisingly older, suit-clad crowd.
Grab one of the comfy round booths and start with one of the signature small plates: Artichoke oysters ($8) layer five artichoke leaves with pureed artichoke, a fried oyster mushroom, kelp caviar and a drizzle of yellow Bearnaise, and crumbly rounds of "crab cakes" ($10) are packed with diced hearts of palm, apples and beets. Do they taste like the real thing? Not exactly, but the dishes are fun, flavorful and pair well with the seasonal list of well-made libations mixed with ingredients such as Sriracha bitters and passion fruit.
Both the thinly shredded sweet and tangy kale salad flecked with currants and pine nuts ($6) and the Farinatta ($10), an arugula salad dressed with a sun-dried tomato pesto over a thin earthy and umami-rich pancake made from chickpea flour and roasted wild mushrooms, are standout plates. For a more substantial dish, try the lasagna ($14) made with layers of slightly overcooked noodles, creamy almond ricotta cheese, and a faux tomato marinara doctored with wheat protein that could have benefitted from an extra pinch of salt.
What to eat: Chef Ronnen explains through his food that dining vegan doesn’t mean compromising taste. The chopped kale salad with pine nuts and currants and the mushroom pancake farinatta topped with arugula are the best salads to start. Follow with the artichoke oysters and "crab cakes." Try the fava bean and English pea soup with Greek yogurt and you’ll be shocked that no dairy is involved. Finish with either the meaty and richly-flavored Marsala-glazed morel mushroom scaloppini (made with Gardein, wheat soy and pea protein) or the cheesy lasagna.
Where to sit: The best seats in the house are at Crossroads’ succession of tufted round booths that hug the restaurant’s perimeter. The number one best table in the house is corner booth with a view of the whole restaurant.
What to drink: Known for his fantastic and creative seasonal cocktails, barman Gaston Martinez launched Crossroads’ bar program with subtle, food-friendly drinks, not too sweet, like caprese mash which calls for tomato, balsamic, raspberry, basil, and sriracha bitters; and the more approachable Bella, a mix of Plymouth gin, Lillet, grapefruit, raspberry, and rose water.
Conversation piece: Kite Hill, the first brand of vegan cheese ever sold at Whole Foods, is a project by chef Ronnen and is used in his dishes.