Seasons 52 opened up right in the heart of Columbia Mall’s new open air space just one year ago. Along the way they’ve had to learn on the fly about the cutthroat death match that is the Howard County food scene.
You see, Howard County is an affable county that LOVES to eat out. So competing for all those hungry mouths can be difficult, it’s even harder when you’re trying to make meals that are relatively low in calories. Early on, Seasons 52 found that their limited calorie option menu handcuffed their kitchen to put out some truly creative dishes. Moreover, they found by limiting the calorie options they were also limiting their dining demographic to mostly women.
Recently, their management wisely opted to switch gears and began to add menu options that were slightly higher in calories but still within a reasonable range compared to other restaurants. In conjunction with the different menu options, they’ve decided to adopt the popular farm to table route. By basing their ingredients on seasonal items, their kitchen is forced to be creative and inventive.
All of the adjustments are admirable, but the real question is does the food actually taste good?
As a high-end chain, Seasons 52 runs the risk of losing some diners right off the bat, just because it’s a chain. I’ll admit that I typically would be lumped into that category, but I was invited to give it a shot with a multi-course tasting. I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised.
When you walk into the dining area of Seasons 52, it’s large while still feeling cozy and intimate. The decor is understated using wood accents to create a warm environment.
I started with the flatbreads which featured a crispy prosciutto and brie topping, the combo worked well together and made for a satisfying starter. The flatbread are a good option if you’re just looking for something to snack on.
After the flatbread, they switched gears on me and served a chilled asparagus soup that I thought I was going to hate. I usually am not a fan of chilled soups, I can’t get past the mental fact that soups in my mind are supposed to be hot, but my craziness aside this was really tasty. The asparagus was creamy and pleasant without assaulting your taste buds with any harsh flavors.
Next up was the Meyer lemon ravioli which was probably the star of the night. The creamy filling had a distinct Meyer lemon flavor that was accented with just enough sweetness to bring it all together. Mrs. Unmanly Chef loved this dish. Ravioli at times can be dense, but this was light and the ravioli itself melted in your mouth.
The full frontal assault continued with a round of seared sea scallops which were served over a bed of risotto. The scallops were prepared perfectly, tender and delicate, they were a joy to eat. The risotto was meh. But that’s okay, who needs risotto when you have tasty scallops! And again, scallops is something I never order because a scallop that is not fresh has such a distinct fishy taste to me that I never even bother.
After the scallops the dinner service went slightly off the rails, we were served a Chilean Sea Bass that was light and fluffy. However, it was billed as an “Asian” Chilean Sea Bass which meant it was topped with a sweet hoisin/plum sauce that overpowered the fish. It was a shame because the protein was prepared so well, but the sauce was just too sweet.
The other main course was the rack of lamb, which in my opinion was a ballsy move. Why? Because if it’s overdone you’re left with a dry piece of meat which is pretty much impossible to save. I applaud their kitchen for trying, but unfortunately the rack of lamb was inconsistent. The pieces that were prepared well were juicy and flavorful, however the pieces that were overcooked were just too dry to enjoy.
The final course was the variety plate of dessert shooters that ran the gamut of cheesecake canolis, tiramisu, and many other flavors. Mrs. Unmanly Chef, our resident dessert expert, loved it. Each shooter was delicious in its own right and would allow any diner to find something they enjoy.
After I left Seasons 52, I did have a completely changed outlook on the restaurant. Even though the main course was a miss, I can appreciate the fact that they tried. Many restaurants, especially the chains in Howard County, just rely on the same old boring menu options. If you chose off of a normal menu, I would say your probability of ordering something that leaves you happy would be high.
Overall, Seasons 52 has a inviting atmosphere and welcoming staff that makes you want to return. I will definitely give it another shot.
Final Grade: B+