Crossroads Kitchen
Pan-roasted artichoke hearts are served atop red quinoa at Crossroads.

Vegan food may be trendy, but to us, it has never seemed like a fancy restaurant meal. What to eat after yoga, sure; our idea of something to put on heels for, nah.

But that notion changed since we were feted at a fun birthday dinner at the new Melrose restaurant Crossroads. The place constantly confounded our preconceptions, beginning with the decor: All the dark wood and hand-blown chandeliers by the hot Santa Monica firm Studio Collective read “steak house,” not "meat-free." 

Chef Tal Ronnen, author of The Conscious Cook (beloved by Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres), surprised us with his plant-based menu. Fresh squash blossoms ($14) are served piping hot, stuffed with vegan ricotta. Oysters on the half shell--so festive and fancy--are here re-created with artichokes ($8) for something just as celebratory: The shell is replaced with an artichoke leaf, the bivalve itself is an oyster mushroom, chopped kelp stands in for caviar--and it's all served on rock salt that looks like ice. 

The lasagna ($14) is made with slow-roasted tomato sauce and almond ricotta cheese (sorry, Aunt Rose, we’re over your meat-based red gravy). 

And, most un-vegan of all, there are lots of cocktails and even cannoli ($4)--the latter made with lemony cream cheese and candied olives you have to taste to believe.

Crossroads, 8284 Melrose Ave.; 323-782-9245 or crossroadskitchen.com

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