No Butter, No Problem

Seasons 52 takes the drudgery out of health-conscious fare.

Seasons 52’s “Mini Indulgences,” tempting individual servings of classic desserts. See more photos below.When I first heard that a new chain restaurant had opened in King of Prussia with an under-500-calorie menu and a butter-free kitchen, I was intrigued but also a tad dismayed. Health-conscious fare I can get behind, but the “no butter” mandate seemed severe. After all, haven’t modern-day nutritionists been pushing moderation over exclusion as the secret to a sensible diet?

But after querying people about their experiences at Seasons 52, I found that I was in the minority. Apparently, not everyone out there loves butter quite as much. Nor do they seem to object to having their dietary parameters set for them while dining out, as opposed to making their own choices.

Interestingly enough, this rather high-minded culinary concept hails from Darden Restaurants, the company behind Red Lobster and Olive Garden, two places where butter (and bigger) has always been better.

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Seasons 52 isn’t a health-food restaurant in the conventional sense. Stuff like wheat germ, tofu, bean sprouts and oat bran aren’t exactly well represented here. But, then again, neither are overly starchy, carb-rich offerings. Mashed potatoes are indeed on the menu, but a majority of the sides consist of seasonal veggies and grains—and the standard basket of rolls is very “out.”

Every item on Seasons 52’s menu is nutritionally balanced and has fewer than 475 calories. And while “fried” may be a dirty word, “wine” and “spirits” are not. In fact, Seasons 52 boasts an award-winning international list with more than 100 varieties—60 available by the glass.

Its specialty cocktails are trendy and tasty. I highly recommend the organic Sunshine Martini, made with orange-infused organic vodka and agave nectar. The beer list, though, needs more than just a little tweaking.

The menu at Seasons 52 shifts its focus, well, seasonally. Dishes change 52 times a year, based on the freshness and availability of local ingredients.

Along with its newfangled, low-calorie cuisine, a lively bar scene has cemented Seasons 52’s almost instant popularity. And complimentary valet parking is never a bad thing.

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Though somewhat plain-Jane on the outside, Seasons 52 has an upscale, suburban-chic interior. You might even argue that its slate walls, gas fireplace, and contemporary mustard, brown, burnt orange, burgundy, gold and royal blue color scheme are to the 2010s what Bennigan’s was to the 1980s. (In fact, the eatery is located in a former Bennigan’s.)

On the night of our visit, the immense lounge was packed—and destined, it seems, to become the new see-and-be-seen destination for the mid-40s-and-up set. A pianist entertained the crowd while several bartenders hustled to keep what appeared to be an endless supply of wine and martini glasses full.

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Inside the spacious dining room, there wasn’t an empty seat to be had, aside from the cushy booth waiting for us. So take note: Reservations are definitely in order if you’re looking for a full-on dining experience. A quick survey of the place revealed a mostly older crowd—not at all surprising when you consider the price points and health-conscious fare.

Our server was patient and knowledgeable about the week’s new food and drink additions. Clearly, management has devoted an enormous amount of time to prepping the staff and educating their palates so they can better explain the menu to customers.

We loved the salad offerings and the appetizers we tried. Even on paper, they all sounded delicious, with a nice juxtaposition of flavors and fibers. We hemmed and hawed over the flatbread but, in the end, were pleased we’d gone with our waiter’s suggestion. Light, crispy and ultra-thin, this signature starter is a tasty way to test the flavor-pairing skills of chef Anne Moriarta and her kitchen. Indeed, our hearty, sweet and savory combination of artichokes, creamy goat cheese, spinach leaves, balsamic onions and roasted peppers lived up to the hype.

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A simple bowl of edamame with green-tea salt was a surprisingly robust accompaniment to the Mediterranean-leaning ingredients on the flatbread. Both made a nice lead-in to the entrées.

Modestly embellished with only lemon and olive oil, the rainbow trout was quite exceptional in quality and texture. A nicely portioned scallops dish made for a pretty presentation arranged over a tidy pile of pearl pasta with asparagus.

Still, we preferred our third dish over the others: wood-roasted pork tenderloin in a thick sherry glaze, fanned out around a pool of soft corn polenta and served with velvety leaf spinach and crimini mushrooms. The polenta was just cheesy enough without being weighty, and a perfect “bond” for the sauce and pork. We could see why it’s already a house favorite.

Like other diners, we were smitten with the adorable miniature glasses and their colorful fillings. These “Mini Indulgences” are actually traditional desserts like key lime cheesecake, carrot cake, chocolate peanut-butter mousse, pecan pie and chocolate mud pie. Aside from being delicious, their appeal is in the low calorie count and petite portions.

THE SKINNY: With its friendly and efficient service, well-thought-out wine list and easygoing ambiance, we foresee a bright future for Seasons 52.

Seasons 52

Location: 160 N. Gulph Road, King of Prussia; (610) 992-1152,
Cuisine: New American with a low-calorie, low-fat and global twist.
Cost: Entrées $31-$50.
Attire: Jeans, suits, street chic.
Atmosphere: Casually sophisticated.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Sunday. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Extras: Chef’s table for smaller groups or more intimate settings; notable wine list; gluten-free menu; vibrant bar scene.

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