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Candle 79

Elegant & romantic vegan oasis

$$$

A pricey ($30-60) gourmet vegan restaurant with gluten-free, naturally-sweetened, vegetarian, & vegan options in at Lexington Ave (Upper East Side) with critics pick & brunch offerings.

Mon-Sat: 12pm-3:30pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm Sun: 12pm-4pm, 5pm-10pm

212 537-7179

www.candle79.com

154 E. 79th St.

at Lexington Ave

Review By Alex Van Buren

The posh elder sister of the chill Candle Café also offers a greatest-hits list of all-organic, vegan fare tofu, tempeh, and falafel, oh, my! to fussy Upper East Side denizens. Candle 79 is the fancier of the two, with a split-level, romantically lit interior full of plush, striped booths that encourage sprawling while dining. But stay upright long enough to select from the decent wine list, which features several biodynamic options, or tuck into luxuriously smooth guacamole, nicely showcasing the kitchen's skill with super-fresh produce or an addictive appetizer of long, rectangular blocks of lightly fried polenta. Move on to that ho-hum vegetarian standby, hummus, which gets a makeover here via red pepper-infused oil. A smoky bowl of it is served up with triangles of paratha bread, a full head of roasted garlic and a smattering of Kalamata olives. Similarly in the Mediterranean vein, a starter of hearts of palm salad mingles tiny shards of avocado with grape tomatoes and toasted pine nuts in an olive-balsamic vinaigrette. Entrées are simple but largely satisfying: Avoid the pitfalls of gluten-laden seitan in favor of, say, a cake made out of chickpeas, prettily presented, set in a drizzle of sweet coconut curry and wearing a hat of apricot chutney. Unfortunately, the killer chocolate cake at Candle Café is not offered here, and the one naturally sweetened dessert we tried was just okay, but most treats use Florida crystals, not processed sugar always a plus. If you must satiate that sweet tooth, housemade gingerale pristine leaves of mint floating in a tall glass swirling with fresh ginger, bubbly with soda water, and sweetened with agave is excellent. It's touches like these that make this classy eatery quite popular with the UES set.