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The Dining Room at Brandermill Inn doesn't push toward any new culinary experience.

Playing it Safe

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The approach to from commercially cluttered Route 360 is along a curving road through a forest. Billed also as a conference center, the Inn sits on a ridge in the woods with a pleasant view of a marina and Swift Creek Reservoir. The Dining Room overlooks the woods and the reservoir, and, no doubt, during the day affords the diners with a sylvan scene from the windows on two sides of the L-shaped dining room. At night when the outside world has gone dark, the rather plain dining room has no more appeal than a self-service café, a garden room without a garden or a view. The guests of the inn seem to be the main clientele for the Dining Room. This is perhaps to be expected. But with an ever-growing suburban population in the communities around and beyond Brandermill, the Dining Room could be a convenient place for a nearby celebration or dinner of distinction. The menu seems to suggest a utilitarian purpose rather than a fine-dining one, and, as such, is perfectly adequate, but it doesn't excite the taste buds in anticipation nor does it push toward any new culinary experience. To supplement the menu, a list of daily specials is posted by the entrance. The soup du jour (steak and potato) ($2.50/$3) was too hearty for weeknight appetites, so we chose to start with herb-encrusted scallops ($5.95). The herb coating provided subtle enhancement for a half-dozen of these gems from the sea, but heat for a moment too long had already begun to toughen the heat-sensitive scallops. Other appetizers ($4.95-$7.25) include portabella mushrooms and a tequila-marinated shrimp cocktail. [image-1](Stacy Warner / richmond.com) Four salads ($3.95-$4.25) offer a lighter alternative, including a little house salad which can be added to any entrée for $1.25. A salad of mesclun with a crumble of goat cheese and a toss of toasted nuts was large, fresh and bathed (somewhat over-abundantly) with a raspberry vinaigrette. The half-dozen main dishes ($10.95-$17.95) are supplemented by a couple of daily specials. A duo of pastas includes a vegetarian preparation. One of the chicken dishes, Chicken Brandermill, is a crab-stuffed chicken breast napped with a red-pepper sauce and baked — one of those dishes that perhaps sounds better than the executed product. I chose a rib-eye steak special ($15.95) over the menu's filet mignon or pork tenderloin. The 10-ounce rib-eye, cooked to medium rare, was good but could have fared as well without the melt of blue cheese on top, which interfered with, more than enhanced, the flavor of the beef. All entrées except the pastas come with a choice of rice pilaf, baked potato, or french fries and the vegetable of the day, in this case, a melange of squash and red peppers. Chocolate layer-cake ($3) with the requisite squiggles of chocolate sauce on the plate suffered from too long a stay in the refrigerator, but was an adequate close. I have observed that restaurants that are busy in fits and starts rather than continuously are often uneven in the service and timing. Even though there were only two other diners while we were in the restaurant, we waited for several minutes before our server took our order, and then had another long wait before food appeared. Our meal at the Brandermill Inn was adequate. It was not inspired, but it was not bad. Had I been a lodging guest, I would have been grateful to have the convenience of a nearby place for dinner. But how much more exciting if it had been a place to write home about.

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