NOTE: Chef David Dunlap announced his departure from the Ashby Inn & Restaurant for a job in Richmond after this review was completed. Sunday, May 17, is Dunlap’s last day.
Were you worried what would happen to this bucolic property when the clever Tarver King decamped for the Restaurant at Patowmack Farm? Me too, until I checked into the inn this spring and got a taste of what his successor, David Dunlap, can do.
“I like ethnic restaurants,” says the former executive sous-chef at that other popular inn, the Inn at Little Washington. His worldly preferences are displayed across an ever-changing menu, which might set pork shoulder on kimchi-spiked polenta or almond-crusted lamb on lemony hummus, a little wave to Morocco.
A lot of his peers make Thai-style soups. Dunlap dares to brush the bottom of a bowl with chocolate ganache, roasted peanuts and puffed jasmine rice before pouring on coconut milk, lemon grass and kaffir lime. The soup is different — and good to the last drop. A few plates go overboard; potato salad with green beans, cultured cream and orange roe on a slab of slate brings to mind both Stonehenge and the Rockettes.
Ashby’s four cozy dining rooms miss the smooth touch of former innkeeper and sommelier Neal Wavra, but desserts — apple crisp that nearly disappears into its big wooden bowl, grapefruit curd and basil pound cake with a grove of garnishes — leave lasting impressions. Dunlap tends a garden from which he plucks nasturtiums and vegetables for use in the kitchen. Unfortunately, soon after I tasted his work, Dunlap announced that he was leaving Ashby for a new project in Richmond; his last day is May 17. Here’s hoping the inn’s owners make another good hire to replace him.
→692 Federal St., Paris, Va. 540-592-3900. www.ashbyinn.com.
Open: Lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday, brunch and dinner Sunday.
Prices: Lunch entrees $12 to $16, dinner entrees $28 to $46, three-course brunch $45.
Sound check: 64 decibels / Conversation is easy.