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TMCNet:  Seasons 52

[December 29, 2011]

Seasons 52

Dec 29, 2011 (The Frederick News-Post - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Many restaurants offer a menu that continually changes throughout the year, but it's rare to see one that transforms each and every week.

Seasons 52 in North Bethesda alters its main menu four times a year with the changing of the seasons, as well as offers new appetizer and entree selections each of the 52 weeks of the year. The weekly specials always feature the freshest, in-season ingredients, and each menu item -- either regular or special -- clocks in at less than 475 calories.

I visited the grill and wine bar on Rockville Pike for the first time recently with a friend. My date had visited another location in Florida, where the chain originates, this past summer and raved about it.

We couldn't get a reservation on a Wednesday night until 7:45 p.m., and discovered upon our arrival that a reservation for any day of the week seems absolutely necessary. There were several other parties -- large and small -- waiting to be seated.

The modern dark wood and stone-paneled lobby was warm and inviting, featuring comfortable sofa seating in front of a chic, gas fireplace. A boardroom with a frosted-glass door also sat off to our right.

We were pleasantly greeted and quickly taken to our table after stating our reservation time. As we were led to our large booth, we passed the spacious wine bar (complete with a live pianist) and noticed every seat was full. Our hostess also took us past a large party seated in a semi-private alcove reserved for bigger groups. On our way, we also saw a handful of uniformed chefs carefully putting together dishes in the vast, open kitchen, complete with a large wood-fired stove. The entire dining room was packed with well-dressed diners, although there was one slightly out-of-place party with a young child, seated next to us. A busy and classy establishment, Seasons 52 is not a place for young children, in my opinion.

Our friendly waitress pointed out the weekly specials to us, many of which featured winter tuna. My date, however, suggested we start with one of Seasons' signature appetizer flatbreads (about $4 to $10), and the starter certainly did not disappoint.

We decided on the spicy chipotle shrimp flatbread, with grilled pineapple, feta cheese and roasted poblano peppers. Not a huge fan of "hot" food, I hesitated ordering something with both "spicy" and "chipotle" in the title -- and our waitress even offered to have the chefs provide the sauce on the side. But I was proved wrong. The flatbread was thin and perfectly crisped, the shrimp were plentiful and the "spicy" sauce, drizzled on top, provided just the right amount of kick. The pineapple added a surprising -- and much appreciated -- hint of sweet.

After much contemplation, I decided upon the wood-roasted pork tenderloin with herb polenta, broccoli, cremini mushrooms and a shallot-Dijon glaze as my entree. My date had the grilled lamb T-bone chops with asparagus, truffle mashed potatoes and a red wine glaze. My pork was tender and the broccoli was just to my liking (not raw, but not over-cooked). I did notice a somewhat odd, almost misplaced flavor -- which I discovered was from the shallot-Dijon glaze -- but it didn't stop me from cleaning my plate.

My date's lamb was perfectly cooked (medium, as she requested), and the truffle mashed potatoes were fluffy and delicious. I could definitely taste the red wine influence in the sauce.

Entrees range in price from about $12 for an entree salad to $26.

To round off our impressive meal, we each had two of the restaurant's signature "mini indulgence" desserts: individual servings of classic recipes, which came in deep, double-shot glasses. I had the mocha macchiato and the key lime pie, and my date had the mango cheesecake and pumpkin pie topped with a ginger snap. The mini treats were pre-made, and we both discussed how long we thought they had been sitting out, only because they were less chilled than we would have liked. The key lime pie was deliciously tart and my date's pumpkin pie acted as a tiny taste of Thanksgiving at our table. However, the ginger snap garnish tasted a bit stale.

Our overall dining experience -- costing about $85 with tip -- was relaxing and enjoyable, and I am excited to return to Seasons 52 in the summer to see what kinds of hot-day delights the chefs will come up with.

The Dish reports on an unannounced dining experience and is not meant to be a critical review.

___ (c)2011 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.) Visit The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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