1307 Third Avenue (at 75th street)
New York, NY 10021
What I Ate:
Aztec Salad with added avocado
While strolling through the Upper East Side soon after I moved to the neighborhood, I discovered the Candle Café, a restaurant that specializes in vegetarian cooking, and quickly added it to my list of places to try. After over a year of living in the city, I finally managed to make it there for dinner, and I am so glad I did.
The menu includes a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, farmer’s market entrees and desserts. All dishes are vegetarian or vegan and feature seasonal organic ingredients, but the variety of choices and combination of creative flavors and hearty textures are sure to satisfy non-vegetarians and vegetarians alike. The atmosphere of the café is casual enough for lunch with friends or coworkers, and sophisticated enough for a date or dinner with parents. A juice bar serves a variety of ‘candle cocktails’ – freshly squeezed juices with names like green goddess and solar power, along with smoothies, organic teas and coffees, plus a selection of baked goods. I love fruit and have a sweet spot for pastries, so I’ll definitely make a return trip to the juice bar for a smoothie or vegan cookie. But with my mom in town, I decided to take advantage of a free meal and visit Candle Café for dinner.
I started with the spring rolls, which were nicely presented in four diagonally-sliced portions that were perfect for sharing. They were filled with crunchy pickled cabbage, carrots, avocado, tempeh bacon, fennel and apple wrapped in a thin rice paper and served with a tangy peanut dipping sauce. While I couldn’t distinguish the flavor of the tempeh bacon, the fennel and apple added a wonderful crunchy sweetness to the rolls, and the tangy peanut dipping sauce was delicious. Overall, a great start to my meal.
The Aztec Salad was a large portion, perfect for a salad entrée, and featured a good mix of southwest flavors and rich textures. The hearty mix of quinoa, black beans, corn and spiced pumpkin seeds with barbequed tempeh was served over mixed greens with a toasted cumin dressing that was sweet and spicy, but not overpowering. I opted for the added avocado slices, which definitely complimented the flavors and added a splash of color to the dish (the color was a little dull without it.) The tempeh was perfectly cooked, not too dry but chewy and dense, and the seasoned pumpkin seeds added crunchy goodness to the salad.
The dessert options were tempting, but we passed on dessert as we were both pleasantly full by the end of our meal. Portions were large enough to share, or even better, to take home for a healthy meal the next day. While a little overpriced for a casual dinner, I believe it was well worth it for the quality of food, organic ingredients, and creative menu options. And with so many appetizing options to choose from, it’s definitely a place I’ll return to again. That is, as soon as I convince my dad to visit me.