When Wynn Las Vegas became the first resort on the Strip to offer a comprehensive vegan dining program that extended to all of its food outlets, it was Chef Tal Ronnen who was brought in to collaborate with the chefs of Wynn in curating and creating those vegan options. Ronnen—who had become the go-to vegan chef for everyone from Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi (for whom he catered their wedding), and Arianna Huffington (for whom he catered her party at the Democratic National Convention), to Oprah Winfrey (for whom he created a three-week vegan cleanse) and Chrissy Hynde of the Pretenders (with whom he collaborated on The VegiTerranean in Akron, OH)—would open his own restaurant, Crossroads Kitchen, in Los Angeles, on the corner of Melrose and Sweetzer, where the graduate of The National Gourmet Institute has been applying classical French techniques to meatless ingredients since 2013.
Fast-forward nearly a decade later, and Ronnen—whose master vegetarian workshops at Le Cordon Bleu campuses across the country have become a must for both students and staff—has returned to the Strip, opening the Las Vegas outpost of Crossroads Kitchen, at Resorts World Las Vegas; and (much to my surprise, as a longtime anti-vegan), it’s pretty damn tasty! Ronen has built his reputation and culinary empire on his creative preparations and use of exotic ingredients, while reinterpreting traditional Mediterranean meat-focused dishes into vegan cuisine that appeals to vegans, flexitarians, omnivores, and meat-eaters, alike. And, it would seem, me!
What’s more, the restaurant itself is low-key glam, with high, soffit-ed ceilings; a great flow; and blue walls (that contrast stunningly with the venue’s soft-hued neutrals) adorned with large-format versions of Neil Zlozower’s iconic black-and-white photographs of rock legends, including Elton John on his 1974 Tour with Kiki Dee (1974); Jimmy Page on Led Zeppelin’s North American Tour 1975 (1975), and David Bowie previewing his Thin White Duke persona on his Diamond Dogs Tour (1974). Not coincidentally, the music is a delicious mix of classic rock, and pairs beautifully with the photos. *
Of course, it’s the food that is bringing folks to Crossroads Kitchen, and while my usual m.o. is to learn every single ingredient used in making a dish, for my first foray into plant-based fine dining, I decided to let my brain focus on the flavors, textures, and presentations while opting against knowing how the sausage was made. Literally.
When it came to flavor, my two favorites were the Slow Roasted Campari Tomatoes (with garlic breadcrumbs) and the Pepperoni Pizza (made using Vertage cashew cheese). The tomatoes were bright and juicy little flavor bombs that exploded in my mouth in a cavalcade of tastes and textures. It’s a lot of praise to devote to a side dish, but these tomatoes are sublime. And the pizza was great! Yummy, crunchy, woodfired, and lightly smoky. And while cashew cheese does not bind to other foods (i.e., crust, pasta, etc.) as well as traditional mozzarella, that pizza hit all the right flavor notes, for me.
Texture-wise, the Whipped Feta and Nduja (with grilled sourdough) stole the show. Not only was it particularly yummy, but it just felt so good. As soon as that piece of sourdough bread topped with a dollop of cheese and nduja—that spicy, spreadable pork sausage made with Calabrian chilis to give it some heat—was on my palate, that velvety smoothness (and flavor) took me to church.
As far as presentation goes, the Caviar and Chips (with potato chips and French onion dip) is perfect for the ‘Gram; while serving the Impossible Cigars (with spicy almond milk yogurt) in wooden cigar boxes cleverly elevates an already great dish to something more experiential.
But the dish that won the night for me—and my family is gonna plotz when they read this—was the Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms. Not only do I not know what they were stuffed with; I don’t care. They were at once crunchy and gooey and flavorful and light. Trust me, you aren’t gonna want to share these. So, when someone asks if you will split an order (and they invariably will), take a deep breath, mentally don your knit jersey Adolfo power suit, and just say “No.” **
Crossroads Kitchen Las Vegas
Resorts World Las Vegas
Click HERE for info
Get into it!
[Editor’s Notes: * It should be noted that the photos of Elton John, Jimmy Page, and David Bowie were all taken at The Forum in Inglewood, CA; and that in addition to being a legendary concert photographer, Neil Zlozower is a dear friend of Chef Tal Ronnen. ** Former First Lady Nancy Reagan—who created and championed the "Just Say No" advertising campaign as part of the country's 'War on Drugs'—was well-known for a style schedule that found her wearing the designs of Adolfo and Bill Blass during the day, and those of James Galanos and Arnold Scaasi in the evening.]