My first instinct, when reading the words “the guy Oprah once called ‘the best vegan chef in America,’” is to run screaming for the hills. After all, this is not a blog dedicated to finding vegan restaurants or vegan chefs, my goal is to challenge mainstream chefs unannounced. So when a friend suggested we join him and his girlfriend for dinner at the new Crossroads by Tal Ronnen on Melrose, I decided I would give it a chance. Turns out, it was a chance worth taking.
Immediately upon being seated at our table, we were treated to a complimentary glass of prosecco. You’d think it’d be some cheap throw-away from BevMo’s clearance racks, but no! It was actually quite good and from what I understood from the description given by our server, the wines offered are organic. Friand ordered a glass of “Lyric” by Etude, a pinot noir from Santa Barbara. It was about as delicate as a pinot noir can be on the palate, but with a surprisingly complicated finish.
The rest of us chose cocktails, our friends both ordered the “Sunset and Vine” which our server had described as a hip sangria. I had the “Bella” because, let’s face it, I’ve turned into a grapefruit cocktail kinda girl. This one did not disappoint! More sweet than sour, this was actually quite delightful and quirky with it’s rose petal floating on the surface. Remember, you can eat all garnishes… but I do know that I don’t like the bitterness of raw rose petals, so I skipped that one.
While we sipped our drinks, our server explained to us how the small entrees work. Basically, it’s a vegan Mediterranean tapas joint! How fun, especially since there were several items on the menu I really wanted to try. How long has it been since I’ve been able to eat Spanikopita or Tortelloni? Years. And I’ve missed them because I’m not all that patient to try to recreate these things in my own kitchen. Let’s face it: vegan cheese that you can buy at Whole Foods is just ok, nothing remarkable, and nothing that could pass for real ricotta. Being Italian, I have very high standards when it comes to ricotta. And have you ever tried the vegan feta out there? ‘Zactly.
Between the four of us, I think we managed to order ten items! Thankfully, we were seated in the side room with natural light coming through the ceiling, so I managed to take a few good photos before the sun went down!
Instead of reviewing every single dish separately, I’m just going to generalize. First of all, everything was so high-end gourmet that if you brought someone there and didn’t tell them all the food was vegan, they’d never even notice.
The Scaloppini has such a convincing meat-like texture, that I could only handle a few bites of it. I’m not a vegan who goes for fake meats (as you all know by now)but I’m sure there are plenty of people who would get a big kick out of that dish. The mushroom glaze was out of this world, though!
On to the “cheesy” dishes: Spanikopita and Tortelloni. Again, if a person didn’t know it was vegan, they certainly would not have had any suspicions on these dishes! Even if I don’t enjoy fake-meat textures, I do really enjoy the texture of fake-cheese. It’s the feeling of “fat” in your mouth that makes a meal complete. Fat = Flavor whether your vegan or omnivorous, we all need fat and those two dishes certainly delivered!
I don’t think there was a single thing anyone ate that they didn’t absolutely love. My favorite, though, has to be the Flatbread with Carmelized Leek Puree, Crispy Root Vegetables and Frisee. The leek puree and crispy veggies on top added to the wonderful earthy flavors of the roots. I’m not sure, though, where the frisee came into play: I have no recollection of it even being there.
Points for the most creative interpretation goes to the Artichoke Oysters. The kelp caviar was a brilliant touch to further the illusion that these were real oysters. From across the table, these looked like real oysters with the exception of the green “shells”, which, if you were served real oysters in green shells you would probably be checking to make sure your will was in order…
I think the thing I was the most excited about was the Pannacotta. Just recently, I had the joy of eating a vegan tiramisu, so when I saw pannacotta on the menu, how could I pass it up? I didn’t ask how the pastry chef achieved such a luscious texture, but it was pure perfection. If someone could make a “real” pannacotta any better than this one, I dare you to do a side by side taste test. It was delicious and the biscotti light and crispy (not a toothbreaker!).
The remainder of the meal went a little something like this:
So do I recommend you take yourselves to Crossroads? Of course! In fact, forget that this is a vegan place and take your friends and family, too. It’s a great night out, with wonderful food. I don’t care who you are, this is GREAT food! And, I agree with Oprah: “Tal Ronnen is the best vegan chef in America!”
Valet is available
Mon – Wed: 5:00 pm – 12:00 am
Thu – Sat: 5:00 pm – 1:00 am
Sun: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm