For his second Dine Out Maine review, critic James Schwartz visits Fathom in Bar Harbor. Contrary to his experience at Artemisia Cafe the week before, the evening in the midcoast begins auspiciously but goes downhill from there.
"The dining room is attractive, the buzz is pleasant, and the wait staff will make you feel at ease," Schwartz writes. But the comfortable trappings bely the quality of pricey plates, like the seared sea scallops with spätzle, sun-dried tomato puree, pumpkin seeds, cress, pea shoots, and locally-foraged mushrooms. Schwartz finds dishes like this one generally overwrought and "overproduced," littered with "competing, confusing, unnecessary distractions."
The fish chowder is "bland," and even the dessert ("crème brûlée, a safe and smart choice that our waitress noted was a perennial favorite" and a classic which one commenter on this site knocked as "not very difficult to perfectly execute") suffers from a heavy-handed preparation, with "a muddle of liqueur and an overly enthusiastic helping of sugar."
Bright spots in the otherwise disappointing meal include a beef tenderloin "served over whipped potatoes and a mountain of crispy kale" as well as a salad of "simply dressed greens and endive, a scattering of poached pears and a few brilliant red morsels of local beets," uncomplicated and refreshing.
"But with inconsistent cooking and entrees running as high as $32, Fathom requires indulgence - and deep pockets," Schwartz clucks. He awards only two-and-a-half stars and this parting pun: "Fathom's execution is uneven and the kitchen staff - however ambitious - may just be out of their depth." The critic, however, seems to have his sea legs already.