There have been a number of misconceptions about what Seasons 52 is. The name is meant to conjure the notion that instead of four there are 52 seasons of the year, because, culinarily speaking, food items come into season every week somewhere in the world. To exploit that phenomenon, Seasons 52's menu changes weekly.
That doesn't, however, necessarily mean that if you go in one week and find a dish you absolutely love -- something that is entirely possible -- you won't see it two or three weeks later when you return. You may see the same dish, but the salmon that came from the Northeast last time might now come from the Northwest.
Another misconception is that Seasons 52 is a health-food restaurant. Every item on the menu is engineered to be nutritionally balanced and have less than 475 calories, and fried is a dirty word. But to call it a health-food restaurant conjures images of bran muffins and tofu bean cakes. This is hardly a place for earth shoes and hemp vests.
Then there is the notion that this was somehow supposed to be a chainable California Grill. That stems from the team of George Miliotes and Clifford Pleau, who guided the Disney World restaurant to its reputation as one of the best in Florida. Miliotes is again the manager extraordinaire, whose devotion to fine wines has yielded a phenomenal global wine list (with no less than 56 selections available by the glass), and Pleau assumes the helm as executive chef, assisted by Toni Robertson, formerly of Sonoma Mission Inn in California. But this is not California Grill.
But then there is that char-crusted pork tenderloin ($14.75) on the menu. It was served with creamy corn polenta, roasted mushrooms and a cabernet jus that tasted like Pleau's signature dish from CG. If it had been reimagined to fit Seasons, it didn't lack in taste or substance. It was, as it always has been, a favorite.
I also liked the oak grilled ruby trout ($14.75). Anywhere else, it might have been brushed with butter while grilling to give it extra flavor and moistness, but the butterflied fillet was fine by itself, a full-flavored fish with a mouth-filling texture. It was served with wild rice, simple slices of tomatoes and broccolini.
Simplicity was the key for the grilled jumbo sea scallops ($17.95), big, thick discs of tenderness, served with orzo and grilled asparagus. And lest you think a kitchen counting calories would never feature a juicy steak, the grilled filet mignon ($19.75) will convince you otherwise. It was a meltingly tender hunk of meat, seemingly larger than its advertised 6 ounces, and coated with a tamarind glaze. This, by the way, was the most expensive item on the menu.
And while the bread basket has been banished, there are some breads of a sort. There are a number of flatbread appetizers, not quite crackers, not quite pizzas. My guest and I had the spicy firecracker shrimp flatbread ($9.75), topped with chili peppers and caramelized mozzarella. It was not light on the spice.
Other appetizers included a large bowl of Prince Edward Island black mussels ($8.50), steamed in chardonnay and flavored with shallots, which made a modest broth; and a rather ho-hum presentation of tamarind glazed chicken breast skewers ($7.25), although the pineapple salsa was wonderful.
You'd be hard pressed to find a more satisfying salad than the one of Early Girl and Sungold tomatoes ($5.75) topped with pleasantly bitter watercress and sprinkled with salty blue cheese crumbles.
Instead of going sugar-free on the desserts, although there might be one or two so promoted, the tray features an array of "mini indulgences," shooter-sized shot glasses of all sorts of goodies for $1.95 each. I especially liked the bing cherries jubilee and the carrot cake with rum raisin sauce.
The dining room exudes warmth with its dark woods, stone, comfortable booths and mood-setting lighting. There are a couple of large trees in the center of the room that look as though they would rather be outside, but otherwise it's a lovely ambience.
Service was superior. Menu knowledge was first-rate, and members of the staff all carried themselves with professionalism.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun