In the bistrolike "La Petit Manoir," gas lamps flicker in front of a wall mural of a Parisian street. A sign proclaiming a British bed and breakfast hangs at the entrance to the smallest dining room. A separate bar area, dubbed "Seasons Pub," is strictly American. It has booths and tables for smokers, overhead TVs and upholstered chairs and stools.
Red marble walls make the restrooms the most tastefully decorated part of the establishment, though they suffer from the pretension of being called "La Toilettes."
This schizophrenic look might be OK if the food matched the geography, but it doesn't. The menu is, like the décor, a bit of this, a bit of that. Mostly it's standard fare steaks, ribs, chops, seafood, chicken and pasta with entrees ranging from $16 to $26 and appetizers from $7 to $10.
The food is not awful, but neither is it memorable, which is bad news for a local entrepreneur who must compete with half a dozen sophisticated chain operators a few hundred yards away.
A pecan-encrusted catfish was properly pan-seared to bring out its sweetness, and toppings of Smithfield ham and lump crab meat further enhanced the flavor. But the entrée was diminished by rice pilaf that arrived cold.
A filet mignon was topped with English Stilton and accompanied by wild mushroom risotto and grilled asparagus with a raspberry demi-glace. The steak was cooked medium rare, as ordered, and emphasized its juiciness, but the cheese seemed to be an unnecessary novelty.
The crab-dip appetizer was doubly disappointing, because the meat, advertised as lump crab, was poor. The dip's consistency was runny from overuse of a creamy wine sauce.
Few of the desserts are made on the premises, and those that are crŠme brulée and chocolate mousse were inexplicably not available. The store-bought amaretto cheesecake, topped with cherries and pistachios, was, like the crab dip, too soft. All of this might have gone down smoother had the portion of the house wine been less stingy.
A luncheon experience was better. A salad of marinated chicken was mixed with bits of walnut and pineapple, tossed with mixed greens and accompanied by fresh fruit and sweet bread. A club sandwich was chunky and the bacon crisp.
Both entrees were on an express lunch menu, which for $10, came with a drink and a guarantee of delivery within 10 minutes. The very same food could be ordered from the regular menu for the same price, sans drink. When asked about this pricing peculiarity, the waitress explained that the regular menu was for patrons who weren't in a hurry.
The delivery beat the deadline, although an iced tea smelled musty it was replaced with a fresh serving. A dessert of apple strudel topped with ice cream arrived looking more like crumbled leftovers than the neat, crisp cookie on the display tray that prompted the order.
Such disarray might survive in a tourist town like Williamsburg, where the customer's biggest desire may be to find a place to rest weary feet, but in a red-hot competitive venue such as Short Pump, it's a recipe for disaster. Especially when one of the nation's most successful chains, The Cheesecake Factory, is opening next door. S
11788 W. Broad St.
Short Pump Town Center
Lunch Monday through Sunday 11.a.m. - 4 p.m. Dinner 4 p.m.10 p.m.. Monday through Thursday; Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. -midnight
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