“A Fresh Dining Experience That Celebrates Living Well,” is the slogan of Seasons 52, a grill and wine bar with several locations across the country, including as of May 2013, Houston, Texas. As its name suggests, Seasons 52 serves locally-sourced, “seasonally-inspired” dishes…that all just happen to have 475 or fewer calories. Well, I certainly have my own ideas about “living well” and they do not include seeing any sort of quantitative calorie measurements on a menu. My heart goes out to the people of New York who have to stare down formidable calorie counts of items at local chain and multi-location restaurants and coffee shops. Can’t a gal get a milkshake once in a while without feeling guilty about it?
Not to say, however, there’s something wrong necessarily with a restaurant that is explicitly designed to help diners eat more healthfully. It’s a bold, and some would say, admirable, goal. I was doubtful, however, that Seasons 52 could deliver really delicious food that just happened to also be low in fat and in calories.
I was wrong. After being advised by our server that Seasons 52 is particularly known for its flatbreads, I ordered a weekly special with caramelized onions, cheese, and mushrooms. The crisp, wafer-thin crust was loaded with juicy cremini mushrooms lightly sautéed in olive oil, sweet, pleasantly wilted onions, and a generous sprinkling of feta. A single order of eight reasonably-sized pieces could be easily split between two people, but I ate 88.8% (yes that’s all but one piece) of the flatbread myself because it was so light and satisfying. Unsurprisingly, Seasons 52 also offers low-calorie starter fare in the form of traditional salads. There’s little special about the underdressed, bland Caesar, but the colorful Greek Salad offered slightly more vibrant flavors. Next visit, I might try one of the inventive entrée salads such as the Maui Tuna Crunch (seared tuna over organic greens, pineapple, and miso vinaigrette) or the BBQ Chicken (romaine, spinach, roasted corn, peppers, pumpkin seeds and crumbled blue cheese) in the hopes of receiving a more textured dish with a less monotone taste profile.
My shrimp entrée offered perfectly cooked prawns dusted in mesquite seasoning framed with large strands of broccolini cooked al dente. The bed of saffron-chorizo risotto with tomato broth was surprisingly sweet, just a tad tangy, and NOT, as I initially worried, over-salted. Though more than satisfied with my main course, I was sufficiently curious about my dining partner’s selection to steal a few bites. His boneless rainbow trout was seasoned simply and grilled light and tender. Just the sort of dish you desire after a larger lunch (which he had) and just the sort of dish other less health-conscious restaurant chains would serve doused in a triple-cream sauce.
In an addition to offering a robust array of appetizing starters, main courses, and desserts, Seasons 52 also makes sure that its customers feel the liquid love via its tremendous wine list and scratch cocktail menu. Old-guard classics such as cosmopolitans, margaritas, and sour apple martinis are solid selections, but in keeping with the restaurant’s ethos, I would opt for seasonal creations that employ local berries and herbs.
Seasons 52 has been bustling in since its spring opening and another location is planned for city center. I have no doubt this second site will be as (if not more) successful than the first because the owners and chefs have nailed exactly how to balance modest portions and whole foods to create a menu that on the whole does not sacrifice hearty flavor in favor of heart-healthful forms.
4410 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77027