Butter. It’s a professional chef’s (not-so) secret weapon. Sauces taste richer because of it, vegetables are more delectable when cooked in it. So what happens if you take away the butter from the chef? If you eat at Seasons 52, you get delicious food from a menu where nothing is more than 475 calories. Portions are reasonable, oils are carefully controlled and the result is nothing short of astounding.
A chain with dozens of locations around the country, Seasons 52 recently sprouted up in Norwood across the street from Rookwood Commons & Pavilion. The restaurant’s website calls the ambiance “casually sophisticated,” but the decor is quite a bit more upscale than that. Luckily, the feeling of the restaurant isn’t stuffy and the servers we encountered were all knowledgeable and friendly (without seeming too buddy-buddy).
We started out with one choice from Seasons 52’s gluten-free menu (as one member of our party is gluten-intolerant), the soy-free tuna and avocado sushi roll ($9.95) wrapped with soy-free nori, and an item from the regular menu, goat cheese ravioli ($8.50). The sushi roll was just as expected but the goat cheese ravioli was a lovely combination of sharp (the goat cheese) and fresh (tomatoes and basil). I would have happily eaten an entrée-sized portion of the ravioli.
As we decided what to choose for our main courses, we perused the wine menu. Seasons 52 claims its wine menu is the largest in the city, with more than 100 selections (60 offered by the glass), a claim for which I’ll have to take their word.
It certainly is a large and varied menu, with a new discovery for me: Jam Jar Moscato ($7/glass). Quite sweet with a sharp finish, I rather enjoyed it. One of my dining companions ordered the Diablo Viognier ($8 by the glass), and while I liked the moscato I wished I had ordered the viognier with its bolder up-front nose and fruity overtones.
Another of Seasons 52’s specialties is its flatbread selection. These aren’t your ordinary flatbreads. They’re not so thick you feel like all you’re getting is bread, but they also aren’t cracker-like. I chose the Ripe Plum Tomato flatbread ($7.95), having a weakness for anything margherita/caprese. With ripe tomatoes, bright basil and fresh mozzarella, this is a perfect summer offering. I also asked for balsamic onions to go on the flatbread and I’m glad I did. The onions were cooked long and slow and finished with balsamic vinegar, making them distinctively tart and sweet. Delicious. The flatbreads come served on a long wooden plank and are substantial enough to be a main course. Along with the flatbread, I tried the crab and corn soup ($5.50/cup). I found it to be a bit too salty but still tasty, with lots of fresh corn. It would have been nice to have had big chunks of crab meat, too.
Out of my dining companion’s choices, I especially liked the shrimp cavatappi ($17.50) and the roasted pork tenderloin ($17.50). The cavatappi was really light, with lots of vegetables, including broccolini, roasted yellow peppers and caramelized garlic. Without butter, the pasta dish didn’t turn in to a heavily sauced, belly-busting dinner. The pork tenderloin was served with soft herb polenta, broccolini, caramelized cipollini and roasted onion jus (leave the onion jus off and the dish becomes gluten-free). I’m not a big fan of pork in general but the tenderloin was magnificent. Juicy, tender, flavorful; I would order this again. The polenta was a nice swap for the ubiquitous mashed potatoes, but the broccolini could have been helped along with a drizzle of olive oil or, yes, even a little butter.
Seasons 52 doesn’t skimp on dessert, even though it promises that none of theirs are surpass 475 calories. Their solution is to offer “indulgences,” shot-glass sized tastings of several different sweets for $2.50 a piece — the night we were there, nine were offered. We ended up indulging in six: the cannoli (traditional cannoli pastry shell with whipped ricotta), the German Chocolate Cake (dark chocolate cake with coconut-chocolate frosting and toasted coconut flakes), the Belgian Chocolate Rocky Road (dark chocolate cake with marshmallow and walnuts), the Mocha Macchiato (their version of tiramisu), the Pecan Pie (custardy and chock full o’ pecans) and the Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl.
I don’t often (if ever) advocate eating at a chain restaurant. This time I am urging you to get yourself to Seasons 52 and find out if you miss the butter. I sure didn’t.
Go: 3819 Edwards Road, Norwood
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday