Seasons 52: trying hard, falling short

Story & Photos by Remy Noelle

Fashioned around the finest seasonal produce, plates at Seasons 52 are undeniably beautiful and bright flavors matched each item’s appearance. For the vegetarian looking for an upscale grill by the beach, Seasons 52 offers an impressive variety of health-conscious dishes that range from flatbreads to cedar-roasted tofu.

Remy

There’s no better way to kick off a meal than with a cocktail, and out of a variety of summer-themed mixes I opted for the Strawberry and Basil Infusion. The menu promised a strawberry-infused organic prairie vodka, agave nectar and fresh basil, but unfortunately, the strawberry tasted artificial and the only basil present was the one large leaf bathing in the middle of the cocktail glass. It was by no means unpalatable, but the candy sweetness was somewhat unexpected and reminiscent of a margarita.

First to the table was the Roma tomato flatbread appetizer. While the cheese was well rationed and the cracker-thin crust was crisp, the flatbread as a whole was somewhat underwhelming. Most of the flavor came from scattered ribbons of basil, and the tomatoes were overpoweringly tangy. The lingering taste was of a generic appetizer — a fuller variety of herbs would have brought the flavors together in a more memorable way.

Second up was the summer tomato and herb-crusted mozzarella salad. Such a long and elegant item name was met with an equally sophisticated flavor and texture profile. The locally sourced southern California heirloom tomatoes were better prepared than those that colored the previous flatbread, and the 15-year aged balsamic vinegar and green sprouts married the sweetness of the tomatoes with the simplicity of the mozzarella. The chef was not shy on the balsamic, and the softly crispy Panko crust matched the velvety cheese without a flaw.

In true Fourth of July fashion, the main course took an American BBQ approach. The all-inclusive tasting plate included a citrus quinoa salad, a vegetable-feta taco, cedar plank tofu with sweet summer fruits and a side of roasted red pepper and corn. The trend of bright, seasonal flavors continued, and every item was artfully plated. The side of corn was clean, boasting developed flavor without oiliness. The taco and quinoa salad were just as clean, and the soft taco included a wide variety of grilled vegetables that matched the intensely flavorful dusting of feta. The smoky portabello mushroom had a texture impressively reminiscent of steak, but unfortunately the tofu fell flat. Its wetness took away from its ability to soak up its seasonings — had it been grilled or browned, its texture would have better matched the summer fruit salsa that accompanied it.

 

A small cheese and onion corn skillet finished the dinner course. It originally includes bacon, but was adapted for the vegetarian palate. The cheese was smoky but appeared to have been plopped on top, which helped keep it from overpowering the flavor of the corn but also left the dish feeling too distinctly layered. Again, the dusting of herbs could have been more generous to enhance the flavor of the corn, but the skillet’s presentation was attractive and the general flavor was simple but good.

While some of the earlier courses lacked depth, the assortment of dessert minis stole the show in flavor. A spread of nine different mini desserts, from Meyer lemon meringue pound cake to classic crème brulée, showcased the chef’s dessert dexterity. By far the most impressive in richness, flavor and texture was the pecan pie mousse, which combined layers of soft, spiced cake and creamy mousse with crunchy candied nuts.

Overall, Seasons 52 is a quality beachside restaurant that features carefully plated menu items with a focus on healthful ingredients. The upscale is not misleading, and the produce used is clearly high quality. The few aspects that fell short of expectations were mainly related to flavor enhancement — for a restaurant that doesn’t rely on heavy oils to flavor dishes, the true wow factor lies in a heavier reliance on herbs and spices. The dessert course was by far the most impressive, and the full spread of minis would without a doubt delight vegetarians and carnivores alike.

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