As a serious food fan, I usually avoid thinking about calories in my quest for a fabulous meal. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilty (sometimes) when powering through a plate of crispy fries or a creamy bowl of fettuccine Alfredo, but—call me a glutton—great flavor trumps potential cellulite for me any day of the week. However, plenty of people do count calories but also want to eat well. One restaurant chain has crafted its brand to serve that demographic.
Seasons 52, with more than 22 locations in 13 states, recently landed at Arden Fair mall, occupying the space vacated by Fresh Choice.
Nothing on the menu is more than 475 calories, a fact that even I found tantalizing. The kitchen employs wholesome cooking techniques, such as wood-fire grilling, the caramelization of vegetables to enhance natural flavor and the judicious use of oil. The appealing menu offers seasonally inspired dishes and items that change weekly (hence the name Seasons 52, as in 52 weeks). It has an international sensibility, ranging from a Greek lamb gyro to grilled halibut with spicy curry sauce.
One of Seasons 52’s specialties is an engaging selection of flatbreads, as close to pizza as you’ll get at this health-conscious restaurant, and they turned out to be some of the besttasting things I tried. I particularly liked one dotted with spicy chipotle shrimp and sweet, grilled pineapple chunks. A sprinkling of feta cheese added another dimension to the flatbread, and the zesty bite of roasted poblano peppers electrified this tasty tumble of flavors and textures. Another delectable version was topped with artichoke hearts, spinach, tangy balsamic onions and a lusty smattering of goat cheese.
Standout dishes on my visits to Seasons 52 included a ravishingly simple, palate-cleansing organic arugula salad lightly bathed in delicate truffle dressing. Warm sautéed portobello mushrooms lurked enticingly under the arugula, and the salad was sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. An organic mixed greens salad—punctuated with crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds, tomatoes and cucumbers— also was appealing in its simplicity and exuberant freshness.
Blackened mahi-mahi tacos were exceptional, composed on soft wheat tortillas with colorful pico de gallo and guacamole and finished off with a drizzle of chipotle sour cream. And the crusted grilled chicken with sweet tamarind glaze and served with mashed sweet potatoes was an inspired, satisfying choice on a blustery, gray Sacramento afternoon. If the 11-ounce Piedmontese bone-in strip steak and tender cremini mushrooms is on the menu when I return, I may be tempted to order it again but will be firm about its temperature: My “medium” steak arrived vividly, redly rare on my first visit.
I did encounter a handful of dishes that I would avoid. The visually stunning seared ahi tuna appetizer featured fishy-tasting ahi slices and an overly salted Asian cucumber salad. And the chilled lobster-andshrimp spring rolls tasted oddly bland, even when dunked in the three sauces (salsa verde, lemon grass and a palatesingeing sweet-hot red chili) that accompanied the rolls. Mesquite-grilled garlic shrimp were overly salty, and the mild shellfish were overpowered by the more aggressive flavor of the chewy bits of chorizo topping the dish.
Dessert at Seasons 52 is a tempting affair. After you finish your modestly caloried meal, a waiter places an assortment of tiny sweets on your table. Selections range from a miniature chocolate peanut butter mousse and pecan “pie” with vanilla mousse to a frothy mocha macchiato dessert. The restaurant feels cozily clubbish, with sleek wood, overstuffed banquettes and a beautiful wine cellar. The expansive bar area is a terrific place to settle in for a night of cocktails and nibbles. One of its most appealing features is a piano player who performs nightly.
While clearly an attractive option for dieters and health-focused diners, Seasons 52 also offers local shoppers and regular folks (like me) an upscale, inviting place to enjoy a glass of wine and a fresh-tasting, interesting meal. I’m glad this successful chain decided to make a home in Sacramento.
SEASONS 52: Arden Fair—1689 Arden Way
BEST DISHES: Arugula salad; artichoke and goat cheese flatbread; grilled chicken Caesar sandwich; blackened mahi-mahi tacos; grilled Sea of Cortez halibut curry
DRINKS: An impressive international wine list and large selection of wines by the glass; full bar
ATMOSPHERE: Professional, brisk, friendly
NOISE LEVEL: Pleasant, nonintrusive
KID-FRIENDLINESS: Kids are welcome
HOURS: Sunday–Thursday 11 a.m.– 10 p.m., Friday–Saturday 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
CONTACT: (916) 922-5252; seasons52.com