Last week, I had the chance to preview a new concept for the Dallas market, Seasons 52, a restaurant from Darden Restaurants. Darden is the same group that brings you healthy food at their Olive Gardens and Red Lobsters.
Here’s what you missed:
But Seasons 52 really is different. Every item on their seasonally focused menu clocks in with fewer than 475 calories. Most of the offerings are very healthy–lots of lean proteins served with generous portions of vegetables (veggies comprise about two-thirds of each entree).
“Most of the proteins on the menu are grilled,” says Cliff Pleau, Seasons 52′s corporate execuchef and one of the concept’s founders. Many of the salad greens are organic. Think local and seasonal, but don’t think too hard. Pleau says the menu will change about four times a year “with the seasons,” but despite what other food writers may be saying, Seasons 52 isn’t using shopping at the local farms. According to one local purveyor who was contacted about placing an artisinal product in the Plano store, rules at Darden Restaurants, Inc., the company’s parent, make buying small quantities of locally grown or raised products difficult, as few small farmers, producers and ranchers can afford the expensive safety testing and certification equipment that a large company like Darden requires of its purveyors.
So you’ll see goat cheese and mozzarella cheese on the menu, for example, but it won’t be from Paula Lambert’s Dallas Mozzarella Company.
Salmon, chicken, lamb, steak, seafood, pastas–everything you might be looking for is there. And the place is stunning: dark woods, comfortable seats, a semi-open kitchen, private dining rooms, a chef’s table, lighting that makes everybody look good.
Seasons 52 is on the upslope of an expansion curve. The store at the Shops at Legacy is the chain’s 13th, and the first in Texas. Other stores will open soon in Phoenix, Indianapolis and Naples, Fla.
I love that one of Season 52′s founders is a Master Sommelier: George Meliotes. He devised the broad wine list, with plenty of affordable and interesting wines offered by the glass. Oddly, Seasons 52 doesn’t require its restaurants to employ certified sommeliers.
How’s the food? A lot like you’d expect: healthy, moderately seasoned (it’s not spicy or assertively flavored enough to offend anybody), no heavy cream sauces. Low fat or nonfat ingredients used where a typical recipe might call for a full-fat sibling. For example, a large goat cheese ravioli was filled with a mixture of goat cheese and low fat cottage cheese to cut the calorie count, but no one at my table seemed to miss the fat. Same with sweet potatoes pureed with a nonfat sour cream rather than the full fat standard. Desserts are the only dishes where recipes weren’t strictly modified to cut calories–instead, portions were slashed; each comes in a shot glass so your 475 calories come from portion control.
Proteins are mostly 6 ounce portions. Grilled salmon, a scallop skewered with lemongrass then grilled, lamb chops with roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes–pretty good food that’s good for you. Stuff you’d cook at home if you had the time.
Seasons 52 could be a big hit. Just don’t expect Shrimpfest or unlimited breadsticks.