- 11414 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD, 20852
- Overall User Rating:
- (0 ratings)
- Sun.-Thu. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
- Official Web Site:
We give up a lot of things to eat healthy, the first of which is usually taste. Thankfully, that is not something that Seasons 52 believes in. The new grill and wine bar, located across from White Flint Mall in the growing North Bethesda/Rockville area (down the street from Matchbox) has nothing to hide. From the kitchen, which is open and visible to patrons, to a menu that only boasts items 475 calories or less, Seasons is putting its mantra where our mouths are.
The restaurant gets its name from its cuisinal ideology, with a seasonally inspired menu that—oh, by the way—just happens to be good for you. Senior Culinary Director Cliff Pleau brings international influences and ingredients to the table, from Tazmanian trout to organic greens from California to fresh, local seafood. While sticking to a "475 calories or less" philosophy may sound restricting, the resulting creativity makes for some unique takes on old favorites that prove just as tasty. For example, a traditional crab cake instead becomes a crab flatbread that ties in the same flavors with new textures. Seasons also strictly employs natural cooking techniques in the kitchen, with wood-fire grills, gasless invection ovens and brick-over cooking that makes for meals that are naturally healthier and actually taste better too. (For our money, anything woodfired=yum.)
Evidence: for starters, the restaurant offers a variety of specialty woodfired flatbreads that hit the spot. The artichoke and goat cheese was fresh and flavorful with balsamic onions and roasted peppers, while the Chipotle Shrimp had a nice kick to it from roasted poblanos that were sweetly cut with grilled pineapple. If you want to open with a more conventional salad, might we suggest the unconventional organic greens with grilled mushrooms and a truffle vinaigrette. (Yes, that's a truffle dish under 500 calories.) The salad is aromatic and creamy, yet somehow not at all heavy, and the truffle dressing doesn’t overpower the meaty mushrooms or soften the crunchy pine nuts. A well-balanced treat.
As far as proteins go, low calories don't necessarily mean small portions. We were naturally skeptical of this, but each entrée features at least 6 oz. of premium lean meat. While you might not have enough for a doggy bag to take home, you definitely won't leave the table hungry either. And many dishes double up! The organic salmon comes with a sizable lemongrass-skewered sea scallop, each grilled and finished on a cedar plank for maximum flavor. Accompanied with a golden beet roasted in its own skin, as well as other seasonal vegetables, the dish is vibrant, colorful and surprisingly filling. Same goes for the mesquite-grilled lamb, a T-bone cut brought in from the Carolinas, served alongside a quail breast. Both meats were tender and succulent, highlighted by a bourbon-chili glaze for an extra punch of flavor and served atop mashed sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts that were actually not bad.
However, Cheff Pleau's favorite item on the menu is the goat cheese ravioli, and we have to reflect that sentiment. Featuring only four key ingredients—goat cheese, basil, tomatoes and garlic—the ravioli is so simple yet so good that it encompasses what Seasons 52 seems to be about: fresh ingredients that go well together, prepared simply and healthy. And while the sizable portion of cheese, which is made by friend of the chef, was surprisingly light, it's still hard to believe the entire pasta dish is under 475 calories.
Even more impressive; Seasons 52 actually does dessert! While the final course presented a challenge, in the end it was decided to not skimp on taste and just make each individual dessert smaller. That might be a bit of a cheat, but the 3 oz. shot glass still gives you a nice sweet note to end on without overdoing it. The "mini indulgences," as they're called, taste just like the full-size versions and include favorites like key lime pie, chocolate peanut butter mousse, Belgian chocolate rocky road, carrot cake, pecan pie, and a cookies and cream that somehow has no sugar added. And for only $2.50 each you can easily get a flight to share (or save for yourself).
We've covered the "fresh grill" part, but what about the wine bar? We're happy to say that the wine program at Seasons 52 is outstanding, the brainchild of Master Sommelier George Miliotes (one of only 152 people in the world with that title). The award-winning list traverses the globe for a diverse selection of 26 varietals that offers the best wines for the best values, from well-known labels to small-grower operations. (Some local selections from Virginia may be added this fall.) While the restaurant has over 100 bottles in stock, 62 of those are available by the glass (1/4 bottle), for only $6 to $11. As Miliotes put it: "Even an 'entry level' chardonnay here is still a great chardonnay."
Seasons 52 also has a great bar to enjoy their drink menu—a large indoor space that may make for one of the biggest happy hours in the area. The circular enclosure even features a piano player inside the bar, to regale you with everything from The Beatles to Journey to Coldplay to Cee Lo. And with an outdoor space opening soon, you can bet this will be one crowded spot no matter that season.
Decor: The restaurant is organic and contemporary in design, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright with a casual sophistication that's also comfortable and warm. (Lots of wood, stone and accents of color.) Between the bar and the open kitchen, you're in for a lively experience.
Drinks: While the expert wine list is large, diverse and the main attraction, the bar also has some handmade martinis and cocktails featuring fresh fruit infusions, as well as a selection of imported and domestic beers.
Groups: The restaurant has three private and semi-private rooms great for meetings or parties, featuring state of the art AV/ equipment and three different preset menus.
The Damage: About what you expect from this kind of quality in this location. Flatbreads run $8-$10, appetizers $9 and under, and entrees anywhere from $13- $25. (The $25 being for the filet mignon.) The mini-desserts are only $2.50, which could get you in to trouble.
Dress Code: Casual, but nice.
Insider Tips: For special occasions, try out the Chef’s Table for a unique and intimate dining experience. The room is beautifully colorful, adorned with spices decorating the table and wall, and secluded with a great view of the kitchen.
Bottom Line: While the fresh ingredients, gourmet execution and amazing wine list may not be entirely unique in the D.C. area, the 475-calorie concept sets Seasons 52 apart in all the right ways. As someone who's had his fair share of cardboard-tasting Lean Cuisines, this is exciting to say the least.