When I was invited to review Seasons 52’s new Raleigh location in Crabtree Valley Mall, I jumped at the chance! I was already familiar with the restaurant’s concept of serving fresh and seasonal food, locally sourced when possible, having dined at the Seasons 52 Palm Gardens in Florida a few years ago while visiting my brother and sister-in-law. It is one of their favorite restaurants in the area, and while I don’t recall what I had to eat, I do remember wishing that we had a Seasons 52 in the Raleigh area. And now my wish has come true!
Seasons 52 is a fresh grill and wine bar that offers a seasonally inspired menu featuring ingredients, often locally sourced, at their peak flavors. Seasons 52 uses rustic cooking techniques, such as brick-oven roasting and open-fire grilling over oak and mesquite wood, to bring out the natural flavors of food. The menu is paired with an ever-changing collection of more than 100 wines, with 52 available by the glass, along with artisanal spirits and craft beer.
We were treated like royalty upon arriving and throughout the evening. Before being seated, we were given a tour of the restaurant by its manager, Alex, who explained the restaurant’s open concept, from the beautiful, spacious bar to the dining room to the kitchen.
Seating is mainly in private booths in a room full of trees and plants, with skylights throughout. There are also a couple of large meeting rooms that can be closed to the main dining area. We were then welcomed by Andy, a managing partner, who checked in on us a few times during the evening.
Our server, Amy, was delightful, knowledgeable and attentive (but not hovering) all evening. I started with the strawberry basil martini and loved the presentation. Season 52 infuses Prairie Organic Vodka with strawberries, and then adds agave and basil to balance out the flavors. The basil helped to cut some of the sweetness, which made for a refreshing starting cocktail. Brad had a glass of Catena Malbec, which he liked a lot.
While we were deciding what to order, we were served an amuse bouche that consisted of mango, tuna tartare, carrot, avocado. The ingredients screamed freshness and we knew we were off to a good start!
Amy steered us to one of Season 52’s flatbreads and we chose the garlic pesto chicken. Yum, yum, yum, and again the ingredients were fresh, fresh, fresh. This flatbread had good amounts of chicken and mozzarella and I loved the balsamic onions and the arugula on top. It had a nice, thin crust, sturdy enough to hold toppings. This would make a great lunch all on its own.
We then tried the Ahi tuna tartare. Tuna tartare is one of Brad’s favorite appetizers, so we’ve tried many we could compare to this one. We were not disappointed — this was certainly one of our favorites. And I hate to sound like a broken record, but again we were impressed on how fresh this dish was, especially the tuna and tropical salsa. I loved the wasabi-avocado mousse — it had just enough bite but was not too overpowering. I could eat this all day long, and can see me getting this to go every time I shop at the mall!
Brad chose the Asian-glazed Chilean sea bass for his entrée. It was served over black rice, with snow peas, shiitake mushrooms and micro wasabi. The black rice had a nice citrusy hint to it. Brad thought the teriyaki glaze was a bit overbearing, but he still liked it. I loved it. The bass was tender and cooked perfectly.
I have a weakness for braised boneless beef short ribs, and this entrée did not disappoint. A rustic dish, this is perfect when you are craving comfort food. The beef was fork tender and the grits were creamy and smooth. I loved the heirloom carrots, which were tender-crisp. I wish the horseradish crema had more heat (spice-wise) to it, but understand many people would not like it that way.
Lastly we had dessert. Amy brought out a tray of “mini indulgences” and said we could try as many as we wanted. Since we were already stuffed, we each chose one. Brad had the Mocha Macchiato and I went with the Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cannoli. What a perfect way to end a great meal!
There was a decent crowd the Wednesday night we went, especially since the restaurant had only been open for just two weeks. Seasons 52 is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, and for brunch and dinner on Sunday. Check out its website at http://www.seasons52.com/home for menus and prices, directions, exact hours, reservations, etc. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my dream for Seasons 52 to open in the Triangle area has come true and I definitely will be back soon!
*Disclaimer: Brad and I received our meal and drinks in exchange for my review, which would be the same regardless of who paid.