West Hollywood: Vegan Food and Cocktails at Crossroads
I was invited to Crossroads to check out the new Beverage Director Jeremy Lake’s cocktails as well the vegan dishes by Chef Tal Ronnen. Jeremy is The Minty’s Hot Bartender for 2012 and formerly of Playa and Rivera. During the transition, he told me what he was working on and some of the challenges he faced such as finding a good vegan substitute for honey as it’s not vegan. That’s right, not only is the food vegan, the drinks are as well. Don’t expect fizzes or sours anytime soon- those drinks contain eggs which is not vegan. But he’s getting close to a honey sub so that’ll be fun.
What then to try? We ordered some food and got to work.
In the old space of Philippe, Crossroads has been transformed. It appears larger yet is intimate and sexy. The beautiful bar takes up most of the back wall with shelving to almost the ceiling. Jeremy’s assembled a good team with faces you’ll recognize from his previous spots.
Jeremy and I talked about changing the expectations of the clientele bit by bit. There are still a fair number of vodka drinks on the menu but they are sophisticated. For example, his Viola Haze would be something I’d recommend if you’re the type who likes cosmos. It’s basically an Aviation with vodka. I loved the aroma of the Meyer lemon twist. It really added something to the cocktail.
Viola Haze – Fair quinoa vodka, Combier, Creme Yvette, lemon, maraschino
While we were waiting for our meal, the chef sent out some olives for us to munch on which is very clever. I firmly believe little salty snacks get your appetite going.
A classy place like Crossroads need some classy bartender outfits. I love the suspenders. Here’s Jeremy carefully double straining a cocktail. Hashtag hotbartender.
We ordered the housemade pickled vegetables to much on as well. These were great and the pickles were still a bit crunchy.
I think Jeremy deliberately named this cocktail Sophia to appeal to the ladies. It’s a lovely blush pink and then wham! you got tequila AND mezcal. But it’s so balanced and unusual with the kalamata olive syrup. This was one of my favorites that night.
Sophia – Alipus mezcal, tequila blanco, lime, grapefruit, kalamata olive syrup, candied olive garnish
As mentioned, Crossroads is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant but we met so many people at the bar who weren’t veg at the bar. Like me, they are attracted to good food. I am always curious when a veg chef turns a menu upside down by asking the diners to give it a shot. Naming the artichoke dish “oysters” had to unnerve true vegetarians and vegans. “Is this really veg?” And yes it was. Chef Tal lays artichoke leaves down on a bed of salt then dresses it with fried oyster mushrooms, kelp “caviar” and a really great yellow tomato sauce.
On every menu, I usually find the nearest whiskey (or in this case, whisky) drink first. With summer coming, Buoys & Birds is a refreshing drink to sip on a hot day. I would even say it’ll be good at during the day. Now Crossroads just needs to open for brunch.
Buoys & Birds – Monkey Shoulder Scotch, cucumber, mint, lime, atomized Islay Scotch
One of our favorite dishes was the caramelized leek puree, roasted spring root vegetables flatbread with crispy shallots. It had so much flavor, you did not miss the meat. Rarely do I fight over the last piece but I was eying that last slice.
Sometimes, okay, often, I crave kale. This was a nice little kale salad.
There goes the quotation marks but we have “crab cakes” and they are outstanding. I really liked the fritters of hearts of palm and apples topped with diced beets. One of the other bartenders Jerome, had guided us on the menu and this was a great choice.
Sparkling Kitty is based the more familiar Moscow Mule but instead of vodka, Jeremy uses red wine and Cava to give it a nice fizz.
Sparkling Kitty – red wine, Cava, lime, ginger syrup
One of the dishes I was most looking forward to was the spanakopita. I love this Mediterranean snack and was excited to see kale being used instead of spinach. Surprisingly, the roll was very delicate and dainty. I only wished there was more than 3 in an order. I really wanted another order.
The Mayflower is an on-trend cocktail. The beer cocktail is perfectly suited for food but would work as either an appertif or a mid-course drink to clear the palate. It’s a versatile drink good for any moment during the meal.
Mayflower – Pimm’s No. 1., Plymouth gin, St. Peter’s English Ale, Campari, orange, cucumber, mint, lemon
I did the vegetarian thing and asked if there was really meat in the lasagna because it wasn’t in quotes. Of course I knew it couldn’t contain meat but I still asked anyway. Turns out it’s made with soy meat substitute and a nicely acidic tomato sauce that tasted very fresh.
Crossroads is planning tributes to Willie Nelson with photographs to be displayed around the dining room. In the meantime, the cocktail Shotgun Willie pays homage to the star. The brew had an intoxicating strawberry-lavender syrup that went very well with the rhum and rosemary.
Shotgun Willie – Barbancourt rhum, strawberry-lavender syrup, lime, roasted rosemary
There are dessert cocktails on the list but this time I chose actual desserts. We couldn’t decide between the chocolate bundt cake or the panna cotta so we got both. Good thing we did because although gorgeous, the portions weren’t easily shared. Yes, get your own dessert.
My favorite was the vanilla bean panna cotta. I didn’t ask what the dairy substitute was but it was very creamy. Jeremy says it was the accompanying biscotti that sold him on the restaurant and why he accepted the position. I must remember to have freshly baked biscotti around the next time I need to hire people.
I’m looking forward to even more vegan-friendly cocktails and food soon. It’s easy to eat (and drink) meat-free at Crossroads.(323) 782-9245
© The Minty 2013