When an invitation arrived in my inbox for a press lunch at Seasons 52, I was immediately drawn by the seasonal menu, health focus, and emphasis on wine. This restaurant seems to have every culinary trend covered. Yet as I clicked around the website and saw the words “Locations”, I was slightly taken aback. So it’s a chain.
Perhaps that was my inner New York food writer talking. Taking off that hat, are chain restaurants necessarily a bad thing? At what number does a restaurant go from a group to a chain? Capital Grille is a chain (operated by the same parent company as Seasons 52), but there are just as many Frankie’s Spuntino or Mermaid Oyster Bars in New York City as there are Capital Grille’s. If a celebrity chef can operate a handful of restaurants in a city, and still be successful, the key is not numbers per se, but the ability to execute a menu and maintain a standard.
From what I’ve seen, although it’s only a press lunch, Seasons 52 is serious about its food, wine and service. It brings elements of metropolitan dining, such as the attention to detail and fantastic wine list, into a more relaxed, suburban atmosphere. The size of the place screams big-box restaurant, but somehow it never feels that way. The vibe was fine dining, made larger.
The lunch was hosted by George Miliotes, master sommelier of Capital Grille and Seasons 52. As we toured the bar, he told us that 60 or so types of the wines are available by the glass, so you can conduct a mini-tasting at the bar before your meal. A quick glace at the cocktail list shows very reasonable prices (around $10), or have I simply been drinking in NYC for too many years?
Clifford Pleau, the corporate executive chef of Seasons 52 then introduced us to the food. “Everything is under 475 calories” was well received. “We don’t use butter in the kitchen” slightly less so. Though for the sake of my expanding waistline, I ought to take that message positively. Ingredients are organic and local as much as possible, or perhaps as much as a corporate procurement process allows.
It was time to sample the food. The staff first brought out an amuse of crab and avocado, served in a ceramic Asian soup spoon. It’s light both in size and flavor, though I do appreciate the natural texture and flavor of avocados. It’s described as something that’s exclusive to the chef’s table, so I suppose it’s a foodie thing.
The 3 tasting sized entrees gave us a sample of what would feed Long Islanders for under 475 calories. The organic salmon and sea scallops on a cedar plank was quite unique. The seafood and vegetables are baked in the oven on the cedar plank, thus absorbing flavors of the wood, giving it a unique taste. The dish relied more on the natural flavors of the ingredients and the scent of the wood, as the seasoning was quite light. The cedar planks, for those who are curious, comes from a provider in Washington State.
The sonoma goat cheese ravioli with a light tomato broth was perhaps the day’s best use of light yet attractive flavors. The ravioli had great texture, and the broth was good enough to pass for a bowl of soup.
Finally, the showcase of red meat included steak and quail. Both were cooked nicely tender, but was once again on the lighter side. Red meat cooked light seemed like such a tease.
Dessert was more than fulfilling. Portions of the mini indulgences are truly small, shot-glass like portions of traditional cakes. This gives you the opportunity to experiment and experience multiple desserts. The keylime was a blast.
I’m going to say this right now, that Seasons 52 could possibly be the best restaurant in the area. The flavors, although light, are very well done and the space is elegant without being stuffy. How the place will fare when Chef Pleau and Mr. Miliotes return to HQ down in Florida remains to be seen, but from what I’ve seen, the restaurant is in capable hands.
Next time you go shopping at Roosevelt Field Mall, this is a very good dining option. Please, stop going to Cheesecake Factory or P.F. Chang’s, there’re now no more excuses.
From the Notebook: There’re private dining options upstairs, and live music within the circular bar area. Interesting to say the least. Ran into Yvo (aka. Feisty Foodie) at the event, here’s her take on the meal. The food and wine were complementary, and I was not asked to write nor did the fact impact my opinion. The restaurant is built next to Grand Luxe Cafe, from scratch. Believe it or not there was empty land before they built this place. Some photos provided by Seasons 52, others came from my iPhone 4s, you can tell. A USB drive was provided on the way out with images and PDFs, seriously professional effort.
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