The Fine Line Bistro, located a few blocks down from the Commons on West State Street, is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the Ithaca restaurant scene. However, after a couple of missteps, my friend and I arrived at the Fine Line Bistro relatively unscathed and ready to eat.
After we sat by the granite counter that revealed an open kitchen, the host set down a plate of pickled carrots and pearl onions to begin our meal. This was a welcome departure from the customary bread-and-butter basket.
Our appetizers, the black pepper seared scallops and the spinach crostini, were individually portioned, a refreshing change from the mega-sized meals of many restaurants. The crostini were served as two long slices of French baguette topped with wilted spinach and herbed goat cheese, finished with a balsamic reduction. The sweet balsamic reduction rounded out the savory spinach and the tangy goat cheese, although the sauce should have been drizzled on the crostini rather than beneath them.
The scallops blew the crostini out of the water. They were cooked perfectly, with a crunchy, golden exterior from the black pepper sear and a smooth, butter-like interior. The accompanying dill aioli and fried shallots breathed smokiness into the dish. The dish even could have included one or two more scallops than the three on the plate.
Both of the entrées had a spicy kick that permeated the flavors. The grilled escolar was paired with a warm red pepper coulis and accompanied by a red quinoa salad. The coolness of the quinoa salad was a nice temperature contrast with the warm coulis, but the peppers and red onions still echoed the heat of the overall dish.
The escolar itself — a fish with a meaty texture akin to swordfish — had a delicious golden brown crust that crunched when pierced with a fork. The portion was a bit small, which may explain why the fish was slightly overcooked.
The other entrée, the vegan tofu curry, was also subtly spicy. The mild heat of the curry was a nice change from the more intense heat of the grilled escolar; however, it could have used a bit more salt to enhance its flavors. The white rice was rather mushy; had the rice been cooked less, it would not have become soggy from the heat of the curry.
Because the appetizers and entrées were not overwhelmingly large, there was definitely room for dessert. Both desserts — the flourless chocolate torte and the vanilla-almond bread pudding — appeared to be nothing special, but each one contained unexpected accents that deepened the flavors. The torte also had a surprising spiciness as cinnamon and chipotle enhanced the dessert with pleasant warmth. The dessert was delicious, but incredibly rich; unless you’re a hardcore chocolate fanatic, I’d recommend splitting it with someone else.
Our second dessert may have been advertised as a vanilla-almond bread pudding, but lemon zest flavor was so powerful that it completely dominated the intended flavors. The overpowering presence of lemon flavor was perplexing.
The Fine Line Bistro is certainly worth a repeat visit; the food was overall impressive, thanks to the surprising twists in the flavors of each dish. I’d even be able to tell you how to get to this tucked-away bistro on the outskirts of the Commons.
Just don’t ask me how to get back to the bus stop.