Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Candle 79

Candle 79 - 154 E. 79th Street (between Lex and 3rd) (also operates Candle Cafe) (Vegan)
A high class vegan/vegetarian eatery located on the upper eastside (conveniently close to the 86th street subway.)

Praised by fans as "the best vegetarian restaurant in the city", the menu offerings at Candle are creative both in name and ingredients: including Eggplant Napolean, Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Cake and Cumin Crusted Tofu. Desserts (and dessert wines) are also available - offering taste temptations ranging from chocolate to kumquat to Apple-Cranberry (a pie - not a wine.)

Beautifully decorated - and clearly upscale - Candle manages to maintain a surprisingly open and inviting vibe - friendly, yet exceedingly stylish. The atmosphere simply can't be beat.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the food - or its affordability. One of the priciest of its breed, Candle appetizers and desserts average $11, and entrees reach towards $21.00. Portions tend towards small - at least based on my choice for the night (Ancho Seared Tempeh, with roasted sweet potato puree, fennel salad, mole sauce and pomegranate reduction.) Yet despite such an ambitious mix of ingredients, the result was just okay - far from the complex collision of flavors that one might hope to find. The dessert of the night was better - the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bliss Mousse....a creamy sweet that satisfied, but failed to make an impression equal to Blossom's Chocolate Ganache or Sacred Chow's Brownie (even better and cheaper!)

With its wonderful staff, it's easy to love Candle, a gourmet location far better than either Gobo or Zen Palate. But while the atmosphere shines, the flavor and quality are more lackluster. Sadly, it seems to be an eastside trend - pretty surroundings and adequate food - but not enough of a culinary paradise to justify $20 per plate.

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