Question: what’s the stock of this sauce? Answer: vegetable.

Everyone in the dining (class) room gasps.

Seasons 52 Costa Mesa

While the above is an exaggerated re-enactment of the Q&A that followed every course at Seasons 52’s preview luncheon, there’s truth in the drama. There is no butter in the stock, hence every dish on the menu is no more than 475 calories. No one likes a calorie counter when dining out; it only took 2 courses to convince nearly everyone that butter isn’t an elixir to every culinary conundrum.

On this press-preview day, the diners were flanked by Mr. Stephen Judge, president of Seasons 52, himself an ex-chef and hotelier school graduate, instructed by Chief Chef Clifford Pleau, and oenologically led by Master Sommelier George Miliotes. With the executive team on site, the staff, which had already obtained weeks of training, prepared a very thorough sampler of the flagship Seasons 52’s fare.

Seasons 52 Lump Crab amuse

Lump crab amuse. Ceviche inspired, with executive chef Pleau’s California culinary origins shining through. Easy to eat, easy to like. Easy on the waistline. Bring on the next!

Seasons 52 Cedar plank Copper head salmon, Lemongrass Speared Scallop

While Californians may already scoff at the salmon on plank cooking as blase, please observe the ring of jus within the ringlet of onion on top of the salmon. This is the circle of vegetable sauce magic that may make you forget you’re in a chained restaurant. This was of the opague “sauce” that shocked and awed. The principle behind Seasons 52 may be similar to your fave neighborhood localvore joint, but the execution has to be different simply due to economy of scale. And this national scaling is what makes the restaurant even more impressive. Sure there are localy market driven restaurants such as The Fig or Ammo, but there’s no Canele in Schaumburg, IL & Orlando, FL.

The 4 cheese “ravioli” seared this meal into everyone’s mind, especially after chef Cliff demonstrated the recipe of this ravioli:

Seasons 52 4 Cheese Ravioli

Dressed in vegetable reduction, not topped with butter, this wonton skin wrapped “ravioli” is cooked simply, dressed simply, and easily replicable at home. It’s less than 475 calories. It should be plenty tasty even for the Chanel sporting visitors of South Coast Plaza.

To finish the regimented meal, Seasons 52 lets you loosen the belt, but not loosen the wallet, for dessert. Every “mini indulgent” is $2.50. Understanding there is no way to make tasty desserts without butter and sugar, S52 simply controlled the portion on your behalf, just like how you should live your life.

Season 52 Mini Indulgence

Sitting at the main dining room of this particular restaurant feels much less corporate than Charlie Palmer’s 3 doors down, yet the entire franchise of Season 52 is a crafted brand of Darden Restaurant Group. Eating the food, it’s easy to see why Tiger keeps returning — it’s healthy, it’s sexy, accessible, tasty, and not too harsh on the paycheck.

Season 52, the first in California, opened in Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza yesterday. Go there, but leave the butter at home. Here, it’s as if the prestige in the trick magic is revealed: there is no butter yet the food, available nation wide, is surprisingly good.

Season 52
South Coast Plaza
Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

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