Seasons 52 Fresh Grill & Wine Bar
160 North Gulph Road, Suite 101
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
As a general rule, I try to avoid reviewing chain restaurants like the plague, preferring to check out locally-owned eateries that, in my opinion, usually have infinitely more to offer. The only exception to this rule, however, is that the chain in question must be either so good or so bad that I simply can’t resist the opportunity to wax eloquent, pro or con. Fortunately, Seasons 52 is, most assuredly, in the former category.
The first opened its doors in Orlando, Florida, in February 2003. The chain currently has 37 outposts, with more scheduled to open and who knows how many on the drawing board; the King of Prussia location made its debut in March 2010. The restaurant’s concept is reflected in its name: The menu changes four times per year, with the seasons; and the kitchen strives to feature healthy and flavorful ingredients at their seasonal peak. In addition, the emphasis is on simple food preparation – wood-fire grilling and brick-oven cooking – which inevitably results in presentations that are naturally lower in fat and calories. In point of fact, no menu item exceeds the 475 caloric mark. But not only is this cuisine good for you, it tastes pretty damn good as well… and that is certainly not a minor consideration.
Another plus…? The wine list. There’s a first-rate international collection here, with a hundred vintages available by the bottle and sixty by the glass, all hand-selected by Master Sommelier George Miliotes. Among the whites, be sure to try the Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay, Oregon’s King Estate Pinot Gris, and the Selbach-Oster Kabinett Riesling from Germany’s Mosel Valley. Several of my favorite reds include a classy Schug Pinot Noir from California’s Sonoma Coast, modestly priced Santa Cristina Sangiovese from Tuscany, and robust Cabernets from Joseph Phelps and Chappellet.
So you cross the threshold… to your right you find the dining room, replete with bustling open kitchen, to your left, the piano bar/lounge, which also houses a customized 2,000 bottle wine château. Wherever you decide to settle in, however, you’ll find the casually sophisticated atmosphere warm & welcoming. Yes, the architectural lines are contemporary – subdued lighting, plethora of greenery, stone & warm wood accented with colorful splashes of modern art – but cool & laid back. Whether fetchingly garbed in shorts & tee-short or decked out in sartorial finery, you’re certain to feel right at home.
Food-wise, if Seasons 52 has a signature dish, it is certainly their incomparable flatbreads. These come in a variety of incarnations – from steak & cremini mushroom with crumbled blue cheese… to spicy chipotle shrimp & grilled pineapple… to ripe plum tomato with fresh basil, roasted garlic & melted Parmesan… to artichoke & goat cheese with balsamic onions – and all are utterly irresistible. The bread is cut into small, easy-to-handle sections and is just the proper texture; that is, crunchy enough to give you a solid, satisfying “bite” without threatening to break apart and deposit its delicious accoutrements in your unsuspecting lap. This is bar food taken to the max. Great as an appetizer or as a fabulous stand-alone late afternoon or evening snack.
Running a close second in this department are the soft tacos. Whether you choose the blackened mahi mahi, vegetarian black bean & roasted pepper, or the chimichurri grilled steak, you simply can’t go wrong. All come accompanied by diminutive ramekins of mole & salsa verde and artistic sprinklings of jalapeño-lime slaw, guacamole, pico de gallo, and cilantro sour cream.
Small salads also make excellent starters. Among the possibilities are the tomato & avocado entry, which sports organic arugula, a tangy balsamic glaze, and grilled bruschetta, and an interesting romaine & kale Caesar embellished with Parmesan shavings and luscious toasted garlic ciabatta croutons. My favorite, though, is the Kalymnos Greek salad, a combination of mixed lettuces, cucumbers, tomato slices, red onions, kalamata olives, and crumbled feta. The key to any Greek salad, however, is the dressing; and this one is sublime in in simplicity… just the proper infusion of oil & vinegar augmented by a sprinkling of herbs. Excellent.
If you happen to stop by for lunch and are entertaining thoughts of downing a big juicy burger, you’d best rethink. While the dinner menu does list both a bone-in strip steak and filet mignon, the good old all-American beef burger is conspicuous by its absence… The food here is good for you, remember? The closest you’ll get is the Rocky Mountain buffalo burger, which, by the way, is more nutritious and also contains less fat than beef. Slather on the truffle sauce, add a bit of blue cheese and, trust me, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference (well, maybe).
On the other hand, if you’re not quite willing to go that route, you might opt for the Plainville Farms all-natural turkey burger adorned with BBQ sauce and melted jack cheese. Very good, indeed. But even better, in my opinion, is the nothing-short-of-spectacular wild prime tuna burger. The tuna is specially prepared in the restaurant’s kitchen, beautifully seasoned, formed into thick patties, and cooked on the wood fired grill. It arrives on a sesame ciabatta bun garnished with an Asian glaze and topped with a zippy wasabi slaw. Highly recommended.
Desserts, individual mini versions of classic sweet endings, are also quite good. Of particular note are the chocolate peanut butter mousse, Key lime pie (pictured), and seasonal fruit cheesecake.
If Seasons 52 has a culinary weakness, it is undoubtedly their entrées. Not that the main courses aren’t good, they are… but they are not as good as a number of the restaurant’s other presentations. Take the cedar plank roasted salmon, for example (which may be ordered certified organic for a $6.00 supplement). The vegetables – whole carrots, asparagus spears, golden beets – were done to a turn, and the fresh dill sauce quite good. The salmon itself, however, suffered from uneven roasting. The center was perfectly moist and appropriately flaky; the two ends, on the other hand, were exceedingly dry. Given the shape of the filet, perhaps some overcooking was inevitable.
The Springer Mountain Farms all-natural chicken breast had its own unique problems. For starters, the viscous lemon sauce simply didn’t ring any bells. Additionally, the accompanying broccoli florets were both under-seasoned and undercooked, although the Lundberg organic wild rice pilaf was quite flavorful. No, the real issue here was the texture of the chicken. It wasn’t moist, it wasn’t tender, it was… well, yes… almost rubbery. Not chewy… not stringy – both of which are usually the result of overcooking – just an odd rubbery-like consistency and lack of any discernible flavor. This could be due to a variety of factors… from freezing… to microwaving… to your guess is as good as mine.
And to my way of thinking, the bar/lounge is certainly preferable. The large circular bar itself is tastefully appointed and exceedingly comfortable, as are the colorful booths that surround it. Live entertainment is featured nightly, the service here (as it is in the dining area) is top-notch, and the chances of running into droves of unruly children are minimal. The piano bar is wildly popular, so you may have to cruise the area several times before finding a seat… but if you’re a people watcher, trust me, this is the place to be.
The Artful Diner
Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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