Thursday, November 11, 2010

Candle Cafe Old Favorite Slips a Notch.

The Candle empire consists of two restaurants, Candle 79, a very upscale restaurant and Candle Cafe, an upscale restaurant.  I last was in 79 for Father's Day and we had a great meal with a few bumps in the road.  To me, Cafe is more affordable, (in my mind anyway as I haven't compared menu prices), and I tend to walk by the Cafe on Third Ave more often so I often gaze inside this place with longing eyes.  It's just not the kind of place I want to stop into for a quick lunch but more of an "occasion" place.  The last time I tried to eat here it was very close to closing time and they wouldn't seat me.  So I guess I've been jonesing for a CC fix for a while.  Our daughter was doing something or other that involved the words "friend" and "sleepover."  We found ourselves with an adult night out.  Since it was one of my 5 days off a month, (read: not on standby status!),  we hit Candle Cafe.

The Caesar Salad was as good as I've had but the flavor of the dressing was a bit muted.  I'd spend the ten bucks elsewhere on the menu.

Romaine lettuce with herb croutons in a creamy caesar dressing and sprinkled with toasted dulse.
10 Add tempeh bacon 3

These were surprisingly great.  I thought the pickled onions were perfect.  The collards that I feared would be tough were just the right consistency to hold the roll together when you bit through it and the filling was meaty, tasty and chewy.
Cabbage, carrots, BBQ grilled seitan, and shiitake mushrooms with sesame-miso sauce and garnished with pickled onions and sesame seeds. 12

 Colorful, original, delicious.
Playing with panorama mode on the camera.   You can see from the front door to the bar, and the long dining room beyond.

Looking into the restaurant towards the kitchen in the rear.

The bar.

An unattractive plate of Seitan Parmesan.  Doesn't it look like stuff was just thrown on the plate?
The online menu didn't list it as an entree but here's the ingredient list from the Seitan Parmesan sandwich:

Breaded seitan cutlet with melted tapioca cheese and roasted garlic tomato sauce on a potato onion roll. Served with a mesclun salad drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette and fried potatoes. 14

Is the cheese supposed to be burned like that?  The sauce had a nice flavor and mixed with the cheese did give a parmigian-y mouthfeel but the seitan was very chewy.  In all fairness, my wife did say she liked it ... perhaps she didn't want me to send it back?

OK, the plate looks a little nicer.  "Little" being the operative word.

A nice thick sandwich.  2 slices of tempeh, hearty bread, sweet potato and those incredibly sweet onions.  It was a sandwich you enjoyed taking a bite out of.  I put some of the sage aioli on every bite.

Wilted kale and grilled red onion on toasted multi-grain bread. Served with a shallot sage aioli and a mesclun salad drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. 14

All in all the meal was good.  Some things were just ok and some were very good.  Every bite of every meal can't be a home run but when I go one of the best eateries in the country I do expect amazement in addition to creativity.  I remember my previous visit here. If my memory serves correct, and bear in mind I am getting older, it WAS amazing.  There are new vegan restaurants opening up with regularity so those original pioneers who went out on a limb to forge the vegan cuisine really need to stay on top of their game with every plate that comes out of the kitchen.  These aren't $5.00 sandwiches from a food truck I expected a bit more than I got.  Nothing was really bad but I hope my meal next time blows me out of the water and I also hope that my waitress, although knowledgable and helpful, could have dug a bit deeper into the smile box that evening.

I want to feel a certain way when I lay down a hundred dollars for dinner.  I want to feel like I made a fantastic decision and had a great meal and great dining experience.  I don't want to feel, "Hmmm, maybe we should have tried V-Note."

Candle Café on Urbanspoon

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