It’s been a while since I’ve posted a full-fledged restaurant review on the blog, namely because cooking and developing recipe is where my head’s been at. But last night I had a meal so insanely great that I literally could not go without mentioning it. In fact, I’ve already bragged about this meal to half the people I know, so it seems pretty appropriate that I document it here.
In a spur of the moment decision, my mom and I decided to grab dinner in the city last night before I head off into the Caribbean for a whole week (yes, I know!!!) on Friday. After each having our own fairly decadent Easter weekend, we wanted to eat out, but on the lighter, healthier side. After a bit of Yelping and Googling, I stumbled upon Candle 79 on the Upper East Side. The neighborhood was right, and I found myself flat-out excited about everything on the menu, something that rarely happens. But with interesting dishes like Avocado-Coconut Tartar, Morel and Ramp Ravioli, and Tofu Vegetable Napoleon, I couldn’t wait to sample a few of the dishes at Candle 79.
Candle 79 is a cozy, two-story restaurant on East 79th street, distinguishable on a mostly apartment-lined street by its deep red facade. Inside the restaurant, the ambiance was very relaxed and calm – almost zen – in the dimly lit main dining room where large framed photographs of fresh produce dotted the walls. A soft-spoken hostess led us to the back of the restaurant, where a frosted glass wall encasing the kitchen sat at the foot of a winding staircase. Up the stairs we went into a second dining room, right to a table at the front of the room next to a row of windows. Dinner over natural sunlight? Finally, a perk to going out to eat at 6 pm.
Another soft-spoken waitress approached, filled our drinking glasses with filtered water, and delivered our menus. We quickly decided on sharing a few dishes and ordered. Another server brought over an amuse-bouche, which was a crispy, garlicky crostini smeared with a creamy spinach puree. Though I couldn’t identify the other ingredients, I noted that it must be dairy-free given the jurisdiction of the restaurant, and was impressed at the ability to achieve such a rich creamy texture without cheese or cream. But Candle 79′s ability to impress me would only continue.
Our first course was a heap of creamy smokey hummus, drizzled with red pepper oil and served alongside an assortment of fresh olives, a full bulb of roasted garlic, thick slices of carrot and cucumber, and a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth grilled Paratha bread that reminded me of Na’an more than anything else. The dish was an awesome assortment of finger foods and dippable items, all light, fresh, and just enough to inspire a greater appetite. My mom particularly loved this dish and plans to recreate it as an hor d’oeuvre for some upcoming spring parties!
Next up we had the Arugula salad, a fresh bed of greens laden with perfectly grilled spring asparagus, artichoke hearts, baby chickpeas, caramelized shallots, and avocado. The salad was tossed in a highly addictive Ramp Vinaigrette, and as one who loves ramps, and even more so, incorporating seasonal produce into dishes, I loved this touch. The salad was absolutely perfect and I would eat this every day if I could. Note to self: make ramp vinaigrette!
Our third and final course was the Morrocan Spiced Chickpea Cake, and man, did this dish blow us out of the water. The burger itself was a thick, soft patty made of chickpeas and what tasted like sweet potato, with a nice crispy crunch to the outside. It was topped with a thick smear of fig-apricot-ginger jam, and rested on a bed of perfectly poached cauliflower and broccoli florets. All these stacked components rested on in a bath of insane green coconut curry sauce, and the plate was sprinkled with slivered almonds. We almost couldn’t decide if this was more of an entrée or a dessert, so pronounced was the natural sweetness of many of the ingredients. It was all we could do to stop ourselves from licking the plate!
In the end, over matching pots of Vanilla-Cinnamon Rooibus Tea for “dessert,” we both decided that we would gladly go vegan if someone would cook us food like this every day. At Candle 79, not only do you not miss the meat (or dairy), but the flavors are so intoxicating and the food so well prepared, that you feel like you’re being given a treat, instead of being deprived. Best of all, you leave feeling energized and healthy, rather than stomach-achy and weighed down. Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian (god knows I’m not!), I highly suggest checking out this restaurant – you might be surprised how great you feel after a delicious meal of organic, farm-to-table vegetarian goodness!
Candle 79 is located at 154 East 79th Street at Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10021.