Review: At Columbia’s Seasons 52, the farm-to-table concept falters

There is a misconception that using fresh ingredients is enough to make a fantastic dish. But seasoning, presentation and consideration of how flavors will work together are all of the utmost importance.

Unfortunately Seasons 52 missed that part of the memo.


I had high hopes for the Mall in Columbia restaurant known for its “100 percent fresh, whole produce,” oak-fire and brick-oven cooking and more than 50 variations of produce. The touted ingredients there often did not mesh.

While the food tasted fresh, the way they combined the produce left me perplexed.


The brightest note was our attentive server, who knew the menu front and back. Most of his recommendations were spot on — especially when it came to the meats. But when we veered from his picks, we paid the price.

Let’s start with the positives. The lump crab- and shrimp-stuffed mushrooms were a delightful combination of mushroom caps stuffed with creamed spinach, the shellfish topped with Panko bread crumbs. It was served piping hot on an escargot platter.

The roasted corn, aged cheddar and spiced bacon flatbread was pleasant. The advertised spicy bacon was actually more sweet than anything else. It worked well with the sweet corn, cheese and sour cream drizzle.

The sesame-grilled salmon entree salad was one of the highlights of the evening. It came with a large, perfectly cooked salmon glazed with a sweet brown sauce and topped with sesame seeds. The salad, which was a combination of organic greens, mango cubes that could have been a little more ripe, sliced jicama and lemongrass sauce, came in a cylindrical glass tube that the server masterfully slid onto the plate for a fantastic presentation.

The meats are done extremely well at Seasons 52. In addition to the salmon, the lamb loin and filet minion were all cooked perfectly to the requested temperature.

We should have stopped there.

The mac ’n cheese looked good. It appeared to be baked and came in a skillet. But it was essentially flavorless. The use of a sharper cheese would have done the dish some good.

The vegetables used throughout most of the dishes simply didn’t work. It felt like the kitchen rounded up whatever vegetables were in abundance at the farmers market — tomatoes and squash, in particular — and unloaded them into as many different dishes as possible.

One result was a regrettable roasted zucchini and Yukon potato mash with a roasted pepper chutney that accompanied a surprisingly tender and well-seasoned Kona-crusted lamb loin.

The zucchini made another appearance en mass in the roasted vegetable gnocchi. They were paired with a saccharine tomato basil sauce, the gnocchi and topped with — gasp — almond granola on the traditionally savory entree. It was a series of errors that culminated with a nearly inedible dish.

I was also perplexed by the Southern shrimp and grits, which tasted like someone took tomato soup, combined it with a bit of cream, and poured atop a small portion of creamy grits with a hearty amount of shrimp. Overall it was serviceable. But it’s not true to the Low Country origins of the dish.

We ended the evening with desserts presented parfait-style in short, rectangular glasses for $3 each.


We got the key lime pie, which was topped by a torched meringue. It could have used a little more tart from the lime to balance out the sweet.

The deconstructed cannoli — a personal favorite of our server — came with a raspberry sauce that added an unexpected citrus sweetness to the classic Italian pastry.

At the end of the night I was left wondering how the restaurant could compete with the slew of dining options in Columbia. I knew that I didn’t want to return. And I didn’t look forward to my leftovers, which I usually consider to be a treat.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the onslaught of zucchini that I would have to pick out. And I couldn’t help but think that reworking the way all those fresh ingredients were used could have made a world of difference in the overall experience.

Seasons 52

The Mall in Columbia, 10300 Little Pautuxent Parkway, Columbia


Cuisine: Farm-to-table American

Ambiance: The dimly lit restaurant is filled with dark, rich wooden furniture, a gorgeous oval-shaped bar and a mix of lively tables and cozy booths.

Service: The staff is eager and knowledgeable about the menu.

Reservations: Accepted

Parking: Lot

Special diets: They can be accommodated.

Handicap accessible: Yes

Prices: Appetizers $9 to $14; entrees $19 to $34

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