By Pamela Schipper | Photography courtesy of Seasons 52
Seldom when you dine out do all of the stars align
perfectly. You know how it is. The food may be good, but it seems too dear and
maybe the service is slow. Or you love your server, but your meal is nothing
remarkable and leaves you feeling too full. It’s hard to have it all these
days, and honestly, most of us are just pleased to treat ourselves to a meal
away from home.
No one expects the moon. But somehow, that’s just what
Seasons 52 delivers.
The food is fresh and flavorful with seasonal dishes offered
52 weeks a year (hence the name, Seasons 52). Each contains a healthy
serving—less than 475 calories and generous enough that you won’t leave hungry.
For those with dietary concerns, the restaurant off ers gluten-free,
lactose-free, vegetarian, vegan and low-sodium menus. There’s even a sweet
treat for diabetics— the no-sugar-added cookies & cream mini indulgence.
The wine list is equally considered and selected. Master
Sommelier George Miliotes travels the world in search of the best wines. The
result? Approximately 100 wines, 60 of which are available by the glass. If
you’re not sure what to order, ask your server. He’ll recommend several for you
to sample. You can even cozy up to the circular piano bar and enjoy a glass
while listening to nightly live entertainment.
Service is gracious with free valet parking and
knowledgeable waitstaff who inquire about your timetable as you’re being
Ambiance is upmarket-casual with earth tones, rich mahogany
accents and an eclectic collection of artistically blown glass. The kitchen is
open, inviting you to watch as your meal is prepared.
The price point is reasonable with $13 to $25 dinner
entrées. If this seems too high, consider lunch. You’ll find the same great
menu selection for a bit less.
That Seasons 52 accomplishes all of this nationwide in 18 locations is a story
in itself, and it’s one that is only eight years old. Based in Orlando, Seasons
52 was launched in February 2003 by Darden, owner of restaurant chains Red
Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille and Bahama
Breeze. Darden plans to open six Seasons 52 locations per year over the next
The North Bethesda Seasons 52 is located on Rockville Pike
opposite the White Flint Mall at North Bethesda Market. Everything is state of
the art, from the kitchen to three private rooms outfitted with professionally
installed screens and projectors, wi-fi access, iPod compatibility and
individualized climate, music and lighting controls. While there’s no fee to
use the rooms, guests are responsible for a minimum food-and-beverage charge.
For private parties of up to 10, Seasons 52 offers the
Chef’s Table. “This has the most options of any table in the restaurant,”
explains Bethany Sterling, field sales manager for North Bethesda. You can
choose from one of several predetermined private dining menus, order from the à
la carte menu, ask the chef to create a custom menu or select the Chef’s
Tasting Menu. “That’s five courses,” says Sterling. “They’re all pre-planned by
the chef, and you can do it with or without the wine pairing. It’s a neat
dining experience because the chef himself comes out and addresses everyone at
the table with every single course and talks about why that food was prepared
for you based on the seasonality of our menu.”
Really Good Food
At Seasons 52, the real star of the show is the food. To start, we order the
Maryland crab flatbread with roasted red pepper, onion and mustard sauce. Tasty
on waferthin bread, this menu item is unique to the North Bethesda location.
Executive Chef Partner Ben Erjavec, who comes to North Bethesda from
Baltimore’s Oceanaire Seafood Room, confides that he is working to develop
additional dishes that reflect Maryland cuisine while still maintaining Seasons
52 brand consistency.
When we select our salads, our server, Tamu Harvey, asks if
we would like the dressing on the side. You might assume this is a
calorie-saving suggestion. In fact, he explains, Seasons 52 tosses each salad
in an ice-cold bowl that is first lightly drizzled with dressing. This gently
coats the leaves, giving diners lots of taste for fewer calories. If you really
like dressing, Harvey recommends, you should order it on the side to get three
times as much. We go the low-calorie route. The organic arugula salad is a must
for those who crave goat cheese. The organic baby spinach salad is dressed with
raspberries, toasted pine nuts and gorgonzola cheese.
Our entrées are the caramelized sea scallops grilled and
served with roasted asparagus and tomato-mushroom pearl pasta, a favorite of
Executive Chef Erjavec, and the Sonoma goat cheese ravioli with vegetables,
roasted garlic and fresh basil in a light tomato broth. The ravioli come in a
delicate pasta shell and the garlic is not overpowering but expertly balanced
with the other flavors.
After all of this, we are very full. But Harvey brings out
Seasons 52’s signature desserts—a flight of mini indulgences served in shot
glasses. He shines a small spotlight on each. There’s mocha macchiato, key lime
pie, chocolate peanut butter mousse, Belgian chocolate rocky road, summer
blueberry cheesecake, classic red velvet cake, pecan pie with vanilla mousse
and the no-sugar-added cookies & cream. We choose key lime pie and the
classic red velvet cake. They’re the perfect ending to the perfect meal.
Published in the September/October 2011 issue of Montgomery Magazine