Seasons 52 has introduced a new menu to coincide with the arrival of the fall. I had a chance to sample some of the items at a recent press event.
Before we take a detailed look at the menu, recall the concept behind Seasons 52. “Fresh” is the watchword of the main ingredients and 475 calories is the guaranteed maximum of any menu item. Cooking techniques, seasonings, and portion sizes are chosen to meet these objectives. When you visit the Plano location at the Shops at Legacy (the newer north side) go over to the open kitchen on the east side of the dining room. Front and center you’ll find a wood-burning grill which you can often find packed with vegetables, meats, or seafood. A powerful overhead fan keeps the smoke flavors in the food and not in the restaurant atmosphere.
We did an abbreviated version of the chef’s tasting menu which included six courses, plus amuse, and costs $77. You can add wine pairings for $40. Our menu omitted the amuse so we went straight into a first course called Seasonal Flatbread. The title actually plays down what is accorded the importance of a category on the fall menu. There are five types of flatbread offered. We had one topped with portobello mushrooms, basil, Parmesan, mozzarella, goat, and blue cheese sprinkled with truffle oil. The flatbread is about an eighth of an inch thick making it light enough to start a meal without it dousing the appetite.
For the salad course we had Maple Leaf Farms Sesame Duck Chop Salad with apples, mint, cranberries, butternut squash, and Texas pecans. This is presented layered inside a transparent polycarbonate cylinder. Once placed on the table the waiter lifts up the cylinder allowing the layers of organic mixed green romaine hearts and frisée on the bottom and the other items strewn to cascade artfully across the plate. It is theater akin to the waiter raising a silver lid to reveal it, but this is a bit more animated. The heart of this dish is the duck breast. It is marinated in Season 52’s Asian sauce and topped with sesame seeds and char su bbq sauce. It evoked memories of Peking Duck and the meat can be enjoyed without mingling with the other ingredients in the dish. However, then one would miss the acid component of the apples and cranberries that offset the sweetness of the marinade and sauce and the heartiness of the Texas pecans crumbled onto the salad. This dish is a winner and although the regular menu offers 10 salads (five small and five entrée sized) you may want to check it out.
The seafood entry was Prince Edward Island Mussels. Seasons 52 serves them via conventional steaming but in a zesty marinara sauce.” This dish was tasty and the tomato, garlic, basil, and red pepper sauce is worth the extra calories of soaking up the remaining sauce with the slice of ciabatta bread.
The poultry course was Manchester Farms All-Natural Semi-Boneless Quail grilled with mashed sweet potatoes and bourbon-chili glaze. This was accompanied by a table dish named squash trio: butternut, delicata and acorn squash were covered in honey mint glaze. As the pictures show the quail also came with broccoli which was lapped with a vegetable glaze. To comply with the calorie limit, Seasons thickens this with arrowroot rather than flour.
Our red meat course was Grilled Lamb T-bone Chops with asparagus, truffle mashed potatoes and red wine glaze. The glaze on these chops is a reduced balsamic vinegar (a powerful flavor even before reduction) and red wine. The glaze was dark and sweet but let the lamb taste still registers. Skin-on mashed potatoes are made from Yukon Golds. It makes for a hearty mash and the part that I could not finish was just as good for lunch the next day. The semi-boneless adjective applied to the quail is explained by the hand removal of only the breast and back bones. That effect is purely aesthetic but the grilling on these birds was perfect, leaving a thin black char on the skin while preserving lots of juiciness on the inside.
Finally dessert and the mini indulgences that we told you about before still rule supreme. The concession to fall is a new pumpkin flavor. Although our mini chef’s tasting menu had left us full, these layered and elegant verrines are light and tasty. We shared one of Key lime and another with a peanut butter base and found both highly recommendable.
All this adds up to a lot of new things worth trying on Seasons 52 menu. Months after opening a year ago there were reports long waits for tables. On our visit, the place was packed when we arrived at 7:30 and still almost full at half past nine. There was also an active bar scene, complete with a chanteuse and piano which, given the ampleness of the bar, could accompany your Chartreuse.
Wine is a major draw at Seasons 52. The Plano location has a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its list. Corporate sommelier George Miliotes was one of the first 160 people in the country to earn the Master Sommelier designation. He energetically tours the country training staff in the care and serving of wine (I actually attended one of his staff courses at The Capital Grille , sister restaurant to Seasons 52). The locations do not have a designated sommelier on site, but every server is expected to be a sommelier. Our waiter, Sirus, nailed the details when we asked about the Champagne (Chartogne – Taillet Brut), the King Estate Pinot Gris, and the Carmel Road Chardonnay we sampled. He even knew that the enjoyable 2007 Retromarcia Chianti Classico was 100% Sangiovese and not a blend with other grapes. That, plus his food service and engaging ‘live-wire’ personality, made for a very enjoyable experience.
Seasons 52 gets its name from its mission to vary its menu to reflect the seasons and the fall menu thoroughly complies.