Stone Manor Inn is a lovely -- but expensive -- retreat about 45 minutes from Washington. D.C. Our room was huge, comfortable, and nicely appointed (at $275 a night, it should be). Sadly, Stone Manor's dining experience is nowhere near what it used to be. Last year, we enjoyed a sumptuous and innovative multicourse tasting dinner, well worth the $70 per person price, particularly when coupled a selection from with the chef's exceptional wine list. So it was with trepidation that we learned that the chef had departed in August, 2002, to South Carolina. Our concerns were justified. Stone Manor's food still looks good, but looks can be deceiving. Dinner began badly enough when the first two wine selections I made were "out of stock", which our server gamely tried to explain as "reorganization" of the wine cellar under the new chef. My third selection, a nice Australian Shiraz, arrived so cold that it took more than half the dinner to warm to an acceptable drinking temperature, the coldness closing off the wine and leaving it tasting thin and uninteresting. When it finally warmed to room temperature, it was very good, but no one should have to wait half the meal to enjoy a $50 bottle of wine. Our dinner was disappointing from start to finish. My first course of "two confits" consisted of duck and game hen confit, two small pieces of game hen (breast and leg) sitting on top of black eyed pea puree mixed with shreds of duck confit. The pea puree was underseasoned (a theme throughout the dinner); the duck and game hen dry and dull. Altogether, a bland disappointment that, like every course of the dinner, looked beautiful. My wife's appetizer of salmon atop a berry puree looked better than it tasted, the puree at odds with the fish. The soup course, a white bean soup with a squash stuffed ravioli, finished with truffle oil, fared little better. The soup, was hard to eat, served as it was in an oversized and oddly flat and shallow bowl. In contrast to the res
although the truffle oil lent a nice counterpoint to the salty blandness of the soup itself. The ravioli was undercooked, rendering it a bit too al dente, the whole white beans in the soup were virtually uncooked, lending an unappetizing chalky crunchiness to the dish. My entree of duck breast over black sticy rice was typical of the meal: the duck breast was nicely cooked but lacking in any discernable flavor; the black sticky rice was, oddly, not sticky at all, each grain perfectly separate, and apparently unseasoned. Accompanied by undercooked brussel sprouts and sauced (barely) with a madeira cream, the neither the sum nor the parts of this dish made much sense, rather as though the chef had selected what he or she thought would look good on the plate, with no eye to pulling the diverse ingredients together as a whole. Likewise my wife's lambshank ragout, stuffed into a few oversized ravioli and served with a veal demiglace. She would rather have had the lambshanks themselves. Dessert for me was a "tarte tatin" napolean, which, after an endless delay, arrived stone cold, chewy, and dull. My wife's warm chocolate cake was excellent, but not worth the delay it took to make it.
Last years dinner was a revalation: innovative, creative, imaginative and generous cooking in a lovely rural setting. What a difference a chef makes! This year's dining at Stone Manor Inn is a waste of time and money. This is now a restaurant seriously at risk: ambitiously visual cooking in which looks, not taste, seem to be the main objective. Carelessly cooked, underseasoned, and for the most part dull food served at hefty Washington prices make Stone Manor a dining decision best avoided until a surer hand takes over the kitchen once again.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.