Just in time to offset the holiday gluttony and facilitate those perennial New Year health resolutions, Seasons 52 restaurant has opened its doors in San Diego’s Westfield UTC. The concept of this fresh grill and wine bar, now with 25 locations across the U.S. and more on the horizon, is perfectly suited for the Southern California lifestyle where healthy living reigns supreme. While the season-driven farm-to-table movement has been trending for some time now among conscientious, forward-thinking and health-minded restaurateurs, few, if any, have deployed the concept in a national brand that delivers a consistently healthy and discriminating fine dining experience.
This Seasons 52 does, starting with its guaranteed fresh seasonal selections orchestrated by award-winning Chef Clifford Pleau. The menu is dutifully inspired by the fresh appeal of the farmers’ market; adapted into a 52 week rotation in which four times a year the main menu exemplifies the flavors of each season and often uses ingredients that are supplied by local farmers. With all of the thoughtfully designed menu offerings, from signature cocktails, starters, and entrées to sumptuous desserts (containing just 475 calories or less), this concept-driven venue allows diners to indulge guilt-free.
I recently experienced Seasons 52’s steadfast commitment to quality and passion for service perfection during a dinner seating visit at the new La Jolla location. Here, the timeless and elegant design of the main dining room is natural and organic with autumn ledge stone and solid Honduran mahogany throughout. Another striking feature of the dining room is the direct view into the five-station, open kitchen where Executive Chef Partner Steve de Barril commands his brigade for both lunch and dinner service.
The adjacent circular bar area, which features live piano entertainment seven days a week that permeates the entire location, is also distinguished by its operable floor-to-ceiling windows. Outside, an inviting wraparound patio with fire features allows patrons to enjoy the Seasons 52 fare al fresco. The venue is also an apropos locale for business functions and special occasions. Seasons 52 in UTC has two flexible private dining spaces that are fully equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment.
On the evening of my visit, I had the opportunity to sample a wide selection of dishes from both the primary and weekly Chef’s Dinner Special menus. This included starters of Spicy Chipotle Shrimp flatbread with grilled pineapple, feta cheese and roasted Poblano peppers ($9.95); Steak and Cremini Mushroom flatbread with fresh spinach and crumbled blue cheese ($9.50); a cup of Roasted Shrimp and Clam Cioppino ($5.75); Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli with organic tomato broth, roasted garlic and fresh sweet basil ($8.75); Cider-Glazed Grilled Chicken Skewers with Fuji apple slaw, sun-dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds ($8.95); and the Chilled Lobster and Shrimp Spring Rolls accompanied by a sauce trio: cool salsa verde, aromatic lemongrass, and sweet-hot red chili ($10.95).
While my party did not partake in a salad course, the selection of small and entrée-sized salads was duly enticing. My picks would have been the Organic Arugula with truffle dressing, Portobello mushrooms and Parmesan cheese ($7.75) as well as the Maui Tuna Crunch made with sushi-grade seared tuna, organic greens, pineapple, and toasted almonds all tossed in a miso vinaigrette ($16.25).
For the main dinner course, I downright reveled in the amply portioned Mesquite-Grilled Garlic Shrimp served atop Spanish saffron risotto, roasted tomato broth, and flavor-packed crispy chorizo ($21.25). My guest thoroughly enjoyed a cooked-to-perfection Cedar Plank Roasted Pacific King Salmon served alongside roasted rainbow carrots, fresh asparagus, and Weiser Farm roasted potatoes ($18.50). Notably, E.U. Certified Organic Salmon is available as an option by request for a $6 surcharge.
Dessert is an experience all its own at Seasons 52. Their “Mini Indulgences,” individual servings of classic desserts ($2.50), are as decadent as they are diet conscious. While I couldn’t resist sampling all nine of the available options, my favorites were the Ghirardelli Chocolate Rocky Road, Meyer Lemon Poundcake, Pecan Pie with Vanilla Mousse and the Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cannoli.
Enhancing the culinary experience at Season’s 52 is its award-winning wine list created and developed by Master Sommelier George Miliotes, one of over 180 Master Sommeliers worldwide. The restaurant boasts a diverse international selection of 100 wines from 13 different countries, including more than 52 offered by the glass as well as organic wines and an adventurous list of “Drink Them Before They’re Famous.” As would be expected, Seasons 52 cocktails are expertly prepared with a culinary approach, combining fresh, seasonal ingredients with high-quality spirits.
Signature drinks include Blackberry Storm prepared with Atlantico Reserva Rum, blackberry preserves, lime juice, agave nectar and a hint of allspice ($13.25); Pomegranate Margarita Martini concocted with Patrón Silver Tequila, Patrón Citrónge, and pomegranate juice ($14.25); and, my selection, the Mandarin Orange Cosmopolitan, featuring Grey Goose L’Orange Vodka and Patrón Citrónge ($13.95). Local, imported, and premium beers are also served as are cognacs, brandies, 12-18 year old single malt scotch options, cordials and liqueurs.
In all, Seasons 52 in San Diego is the perfect place to meet a date, friends, family and business associates where one and all can celebrate the deliciousness and uniqueness of each season in a handsome, relaxing setting that pays homage to healthy lifestyle dining choices.