After closing two years ago due to a tragic accident that left the restaurant in disarray, Simeon’s is back and open for business as of this Fall. A lot of excitement has built around the opening of the restaurant. As soon as I stepped onto campus, I heard about how Simeon’s was set to open. Though I wasn’t here when the original Simeon’s was around, I too was excited. I began to imagine the meal I would have at this American bistro.
Fast forwarding to the night I was able to dine in, I was in a great mood since I had just finished taking a prelim. As I’m sure many locals understand, I was concerned about having to park in the garage, but my friends and I luckily found street parking. As I rounded the corner of East State Street and walked through the doors, I was amazed at how well the interior is put together. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it felt like a bistro in New York City, I didn’t feel like I was in Ithaca. The soft, light brown leather; marble counter tops and wooden decor definitely fit the bistro theme and was a nice change from the typical stuffy Ithaca restaurant many most often end up in. What caught my eye next was the focal point of the room, the bar. Five towering shelves of an expansive liquor inventory surrounded the bar’s mirrored backdrop. Moving through the main dining room, we entered the “oyster room” where we were seated at a high four top.
Since Simeon’s is categorized as an American bistro, I assumed there would be an extensive menu filled with many options, aiming to have almost something for everyone. While I understand that’s hard to do, with this expectation I was sadly disappointed. The menu was divided into three main sections: sandwiches, small plates and large plates. The fact that there was a sandwich section on the dinner menu took me by surprise. This section included a Simeon’s burger and ahi tuna burger, both items I would’ve placed in the large plates section. The small plates were definitely small and purely appetizer-sized, not ideal if you’re the kind of person who can often rely on an appetizer to serve as an entrée. The small plate options included soups, seafood, vegetables and beef.
I ordered the roasted brussel sprouts and heirloom carrots to share with a friend. I was hesitant about the order because those plates do seem like items that are typically considered sides, but I tried them anyway and that is exactly how one would describe them. The heirloom carrots with green coriander sheep’s milk yogurt, local honey and granola had a strong flavor profile, between the tanginess of the yogurt and sweetness of the carrot with the honey, and it came in a “side like” layout as opposed to a “salad like” one. The brussel sprouts and the carrots were among three vegetable-centered small plate options, the third being a grilled cabbage salad. None of the above though featured any raw or fresh vegetables, which was slightly disappointing. While I shared the vegetables with one friend, another enjoyed the the grilled octopus, but was put off by the lack of support the octopus had on the plate. It was accompanied only by a small allocation of sauce consisting of puttanesca, grapes and tarragon. The texture and flavor mix were not complementary of each other, but the octopus on its own was seasoned and prepared well.
When the entrées came out I was ready to see what else was in store, hoping that this part of the meal would make my evening. The chicken parmesan with linguini came out in a heaping portion, true to its description as a “large plate.” The linguini was cooked al dente and was well seasoned, while the chicken parmesan was the breaded and cheesy standard one would typically find at any Italian restaurant. The burger was a hearty blend of short rib, brisket and chuck meat, layered with house herb boursin (soft, creamy cheese) lettuce, tomato and crispy onions, served (of course) with your classic french fries.
The entrées definitely did the trick in satisfying our appetites, so we didn’t indulge in any desserts. This didn’t stop us, though, from looking. The options consisted of five individually portioned glasses of cake, some of which included a variation of pumpkin, tiramisu and a cannoli. Nothing stood out or made us reconsider our already full stomachs, but maybe next time.
All in all, the meal was quite pleasant. I wouldn’t place it in my top five places for dinner in Ithaca, but when you need a place for dinner and don’t want to end up on a wait list, Simeon’s is available for reservations, which aren’t offered at most restaurants downtown.
Note that Simeon’s has recently begun offering a lunch menu during the week and brunch on the weekends.