You usually wouldn’t expect to find a fine dining bistro packed inside a typical commercial plaza boasting, among other businesses, a Rent-A-Center and the Tompkins County Department of Motor Vehicles. But if you are planning on dining out one evening at Mira Mediterranean Bistro, that’s what you will find: a cozy, yet contemporary, restaurant found out of place on Third Street.
Perfect for a table of two or a group, Mira invites patrons past a small wine bar to a cozy dining area. The interior is a mix of contemporary art deco with Mediterranean flare. A black and white checkered floor balances the solid-color walls. Large mirrors throughout the bistro give size-enhancing illusions, and art pieces create a geometric and symmetrical feeling.
A good friend and I decided to make a date night on a chilly Friday evening, and we were quickly seated in the nearly empty restaurant that had been open for approximately 45 minutes upon our arrival.
The bistro offers a perfect evening menu. All of the dishes, from the Eggplant Cassoulet to the Za’atar-crusted Yellowfin Tuna, are reminiscent of Mediterranean cuisine, yet prepared with American flare. With 10 appetizers, more than a dozen entrees and different daily specials, there is something for every taste, whether you’re a vegetarian, a seafood lover or just someone craving a New York Strip.
Before placing our order, we enjoyed a small dish of fried pita chips, feta cheese and olives. Wishing to try as a much as possible, we ordered the Mediterranean Tapas Plate, $10, as an appetizer. Served within minutes, the plate consisted of braised fennel, marinated meat wrapped in phyllo dough, asparagus-stuffed goat cheese, onion petals, crisp garlic bread and a lemon dipping sauce. The fennel fit well with the chilled lemon sauce. The marinated meat was a perfectly sized small treat—not too dry and not too sauced so the dough sogged. The onion petals were lightly fried with a bread-like seasoning and were sweet without an overpowering, pungent onion taste. The asparagus-stuffed goat cheese paired well on top of the crisp garlic bread, offering a creamy and buttery topping to the extra crisp pieces of bread.
As a seafood fan, I decided to order the Pan-Seared Red Snapper, one of the nightly specials, for $18. Served on a bed of lemon orzo and asparagus, the snapper was cooked perfectly—not too flaky, and still rich and moist enough to fall apart in your mouth. The seasoning on top of the fish offered a nice, spicy bite to the otherwise tangy dish. The bed of lemon-flavored orzo was a little too sweet for my taste, but it provided a nice foundation to the meal. The asparagus was cooked perfectly.
Our other entrée was the Butternut Squash, Wild Mushrooms and Arugula over Linguine for $14. The dish relied heavily on the natural flavors of the ingredients rather than an assortment of outside spices. The linguine was cooked well, and the wild mushrooms had a nice gamey taste and texture that mixed well with the arugula and cheese atop the dish. The butternut squash throughout the plate was diced into bite-size cubes. It was fired perfectly: crisp, salty and sweet—almost mistakable for a diced sweet potato.
By far, our favorite part of the evening was dessert. Not wanting to choose between the Earl Grey Panna Cotta and the Almond Chocolate Cake, $5 each, we decided to indulge and order both. The Earl Grey Panna Cotta was my favorite. With a softer, creamier texture than crème brulee, this was hands-down one of the best desserts I have ever enjoyed. It had a rich flavor almost hinting at vanilla, topped with raspberries. The Almond Chocolate Cake was also delicious. Cold, soft, with a mix of milk and dark chocolate flavor, the cake was surprisingly flavored with almond extract and contained no actual nuts. The desserts played off one another and tasted even better mixed together.
Over the course of the hour in which we ate, the restaurant quickly became filled with older couples and small groups of 20-something-year-olds. While we could have easily stayed and picked at the remaining crumbs of our cake and panna cotta, we both realized the almost-full bistro was a little too cramped for our taste. After retrieving our coats, we paid our bill, which came to just under $70, and made our dash out into the blustery April evening.
With exceptional service, an ethnic menu without too much exoticness and a lively ambiance, Mira Mediterranean Bistro is the perfect place for a quiet romantic date or fine dining splurge among friends. And if you’re daring, with Bowl-O-Drome only steps away, you can easily burn off any excess calories from those extra desserts with a round or two of cosmic bowling.
Mira Mediterranean Bistro is located at 311 Third St., (607) 272-6472.
Ryan Sharpstene is a sophomore journalism major who proudly endorses eating multiple desserts. Email him at email@example.com.