The future is here

Last night, dinner at a chain restaurant was a controlled disaster.  Tonight, we went to Seasons 52, across from the hotel in Arden Fair mall, and it was a smashing success.

Seasons 52 is new, at least around here.  They just opened 3 weeks ago, and already they are booming.  I think they have found the perfect formula for today, and fully expect to see other restaurants following in their lead.

The facility is beautifully designed, with lots of wood and warmth, a full bar area, private dining rooms available for meetings or functions, and a design that artfully conceals how large the operation really is–each table seems like it is in a relatively small, intimate area.  Lighting is pretty dim, the noise level is moderate but not excessive.

Every dish on the menu is 475 calories or fewer.  There is no butter in the house.  Bread is not served.  You can have an excellent meal and not have to worry about overeating or not eating wisely.

This is no hole-in-the-wall start up.  Seasons 52 is owned by the Darden Corporation, a food service behemoth which owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse and a half dozen other national brands.  These people are experts in every possible area of food service operation, and it shows.  This three week old business already runs like a well oiled machine.

A re-imagining of the gyro, served on flatbread

A re-imagining of the gyro, served on flatbread

 

If you want to hold each item to 475 calories, you have to be creative.  This is their version of the gyro, the Greek lamb sandwich.  It is served here on flatbread, with very little meat and more tomato.  Gail had this and loved it–it’s hardly the classic presentation, but it was fresh and tasty while still being health-conscious.

Vegetarian platter

Vegetarian Tasting– quinoa-citrus salad, soft taco, chili relleno, vegetables, cedar roasted tofu, mango chutney  

Bruce Tuttle had this dish–it looked so good I had to take my fork over to his table and try the quinoa-citrus salad, which would be very good with a little salt on it.  It didn’t look like quinoa, so we asked and found out that it was largely farro, which they for some reason don’t bother to mention on the menu.

Goat Cheese ravioli

Goat Cheese ravioli

 

Yes, it’s possible to make a low-cal pasta dish. Use broth for the sauce and low-fat goat cheese for the filling and you’ve got a great dish.

 

Maui Tuna Crunch sushi-grade seared tuna, organic greens, pineapple, toasted almonds, miso vinaigrette

Maui Tuna Crunch sushi-grade seared tuna, organic greens, pineapple, toasted almonds, miso vinaigrette

 

This was my entree, and it was fabulous.  Again, little or no oil in the salad dressing and you have a very lo cal dish with great flavor and texture.  The tuna was perfectly seared and seasoned to a fare-thee-well.  The dish arrives with the salad in a large, clear, plastic tube which the waiter then pours out over the plate–a little theatrics to improve the dining experience and provide perfect portion control at the same time.  I said these people were experts.

 

You can’t have a great meal without dessert, and Seasons 52 has come up with a great innovation here, as well.  They bring a tray to the table with nine separate  tiny desserts, each created in a 2 ounce shotglass and priced at a picayune $2.50.

The dessert tray, downsized.

The dessert tray, downsized.

 

At this size and price, everyone can have at least one, and you can pass them around the table and share with your friends.  We chose these:

Our trio of gooey goodness.

Our trio of gooey goodness.

 

That’s a Belgian chocolate Rocky Road, a Mocha Macchiato and a meyer lemon meringue.

In short, we loved this place.  We’d come back anytime.  They serve good food at a good price in a professional manner.  Seasons 52 is everything a restaurant should be.

 
Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

 

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