Seasons 52 opened its first location in North Carolina at Raleigh’s Crabtree Valley Mall a month ago. The fresh grill and wine bar boasts a rotating seasonal menu, to take advantage of ingredients at peak freshness year round.
The location occupies 8,525 square feet but still manages to create an intimate dining experience, with plenty of cozy corners and alcoves, many in the shade of a forest of indoor trees scattered throughout the interior, underneath skylights. Seasons 52 also has two private party rooms, which can be opened to expand the dining area during peak hours.
In one month on the job, the service staff has already familiarized itself on the menu and are able to speak knowledgably and professionally about the various dishes.
At a recent brunch, two tables had diners with food allergies—garlic and red pepper respectively. While many allergy sufferers are familiar with blank looks and shrugs from wait staffs, Seasons 52 personnel were able to confidently reassure diners that their special needs could be accommodated without limiting their options.
Executive chef Bryan Florence then made three personal appearances at each table, before, during and after the meal, to discuss options and check in with each allergy sufferer.
Wait and kitchen staff were also extremely accommodating to other diners, allowing people to set aside the brunch options and order off the dinner menu.
The meal began with a “chef’s muse”—a taste of orange marmalade and Greek yogurt mousse to “awaken the palette.”
The appetizer menu includes meal-sized flatbreads with a variety of tastes, from the creamy tang of the lobster-mozzarella to the crisp savory prosciutto-asparagus.
Seasons 52 also has several creative appetizer options outside the flatbread menu. The smoky wood-grilled artichokes with remoulade sauce were a pleasant surprise, as were the spicy Korean chili glazed duck wing lollipops.
While the appetizers gave Florence a chance to experiment and play, he got down to business when it was time for the entrees.
The brick-oven Brioche French Toast is the highlight of the Sunday morning menu. The thick, creamy dish is served with blueberry-infused maple syrup and whiskey-smoked brown sugar pecans.
It’s hard to pin down any one specialty for Seasons 52, but it’s equally hard to top their seafood options. Florence said that the Asian-glazed Chilean Sea Bass is the top selling dish across the franchise, and it’s easy to see why. Served on a bed of black “forbidden rice,” it offers a mixture of taste sensations that sing together.
The caramelized grilled sea scallops are another top seller. Like with the sea bass, the protein is
paired with the perfect complementary side dish—in this case a bed of lemon risotto and peas that help offset the smoky shellfish.
The “pasture” portion of the menu is topped by a pair of beef experiences that are hard to match. The boneless beef short rib is slow-braised, until it pulls apart with a fork like grandma’s pot roast. It’s paired with stone-ground cheddar grits and heritage carrots, to make a hearty, high-class stew.
The filet mignon is wood grilled and served with a red-wine sauce, Yukon mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.
Regardless of the chosen entrée, Seasons 52 offers a rarity—a hearty gourmet meal. For diners who somehow saved room, a selection of mini-indulgences are offered for dessert. Essentially a three-dollar dessert shot, complete with the narrow glasses in which they’re served, the minis give more than a bite of pie, mousse, tart or cannoli, and they all contain 370 calories or fewer.
With attentive, dedicated staff and a menu that combines the resources of a national chain with the creativity of one of the top chefs in the area, Seasons 52 has built plenty of momentum in its first month in the area. It will be interesting to watch the new dining experiences that the changing seasons provide.