Seasons 52

I’ve heard Seasons 52 described as the healthy Houston’s (now Hillstone), and that’s pretty apt. The upscale chain, which recently added a link in Coral Gables, keeps the calorie counts under 475 and relies on marinades, wood-roasting and lots of fresh stocks and herbs for flavor.  The name derives from the fact that the menu changes four times a year, with weekly specials based on what’s in season. Additional options for conscious eaters include gluten-free, low-sodium, low-fat, vegetarian and vegan. Lest you worry that this is tofu-and-bean-sprouts fare, remember that the recipes have been engineered for flavor by Darden, where some of the brightest brains in the corporate food world also cooked up Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze and Olive Garden.

Ambience: The decor is about as generic as an Office Depot catalogue with cherry-toned wood paneling dominating the look, and a flaming fire pit in the entrance creates the odd feeling that you are in a Vermont ski lodge rather than the tropics.

What Worked

  • Cracker-thin flat breads
  • The only-in-Miami Cuban sandwich with pork, pickles and tangy mustard sauce
  • Across-the-board fresh, crisp, well composed and gently dressed salads
  • A simple green salad with toasted pumpkin seeds, grape tomatoes and diced cucumber
  • Arugula salad with golden beets and pistachios
  • Satisfying, hearty, smoky buffalo chili
  • Signature cedar-planked salmon
  • A fine tiger shrimp penne with a lemon-spiked Parmesan and basil sauce
  • A surprisingly great turkey skewer served over orzo alternates cubes of tender, juicy meat with red onion, red and yellow bell pepper and cremini mushrooms
  • Moist, gorgeously charred pork medallions served over a creamy polenta with spinach and mushrooms
  • An impressive 100-plus bottle international wine list with more than 75 available by the glass
  • Jewel-like desserts that arrive as a “flight” alluringly displayed in square shot glasses
  • Buttery pecan pie
  • Perfectly tart & tangy Meyer lemon pound cake

What Didn’t Work

  • Shrimp stuffed with a bready artichoke mixture overpowered by an unappealing dry spice blend
  • A pristine, skin-on trout fillet coated in an off-putting, gelatinous citrus glaze
  • Perky young servers with lots of training but not necessarily much common sense
  • An overhyped concept – most ingredients are basic and hardly local, from Hawaiian pineapple and California goat cheese to Canadian mussels, farm-raised salmon and chicken from one of the country’s largest poultry producers



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