Savor fresh fare in a swank ambiance at Seasons 52 Fresh Grill.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Seasons 52 Fresh Grill recently opened to a packed house at 245 Summit Boulevard at The Summit. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, boasting live music nightly and a wine bar. The menu is seasonal and weekly, with 52 menus of chef’s dinner specials, thus the name “Seasons 52.” All dishes are planned for calorie count—with nothing on our menu more than 475 calories.

The Place
Anticipation for a new restaurant had been building for months as we watched the former Sweet Bone’s building be demolished and the new Seasons 52 restaurant built from scratch. And tonight we arrive for our first taste of Seasons with a valet in waiting. A ledge stone fireplace by the door welcomes us. And we are seated at a booth near the semi open kitchen, which is divided from the dining room by glass panels. The ambiance is contemporary, sophisticated, and adult focused. Mahogany toned wood and earth tone upholstery add warmth. Wooden panels displaying wine and a collection of colorful vases separate tables in the dining room. Here soft notes from the piano bar—with live vocal—drift through the air and intermingle with aromas rising from the flames of the wood-fire grill and brick-oven in the kitchen. The dining room is open to the wine bar and the semi open kitchen. Seasons 52 also boasts three private dining rooms, a chef’s table, patio, and a wine bar.

The Wine
The wine bar seats 30 and is surrounded by eight bar booths. Their 2,000+ wine collection is housed in a climate–controlled wine chateau. And the wine list offers 100 bottle selections and 60 wines by the glass. Included in this Wine Spectator Award of Excellence wine list are wines of value, organic wines, and seasonal picks. The list is uniquely divided by taste descriptors at the top of each section, making it easy to select wines that fit your taste preferences and palate. The wine list, pairings and seasonal wine picks are made by Master Sommelier, George Miliotes. And their private event dining menu items are also planned for wine pairings, with separate menus for various wine varietals.

The People
Clifford Pleau brings his rich culinary background to his role as corporate chef. He teaches chefs to use high quality, in season ingredients and to let the food “do the work.” Birmingham’s Seasons 52 chef Nicholas Dees executes Pleau’s vision, while maintaining Seasons 52’s philosophy of being a “change” restaurant rather than a chain restaurant. Dees’ fare is already making this a destination restaurant, for which many are making online or call in reservations, in addition to the walk in traffic brought by their desirable location in the heart of The Summit. He comes to the restaurant from P.F. Changs where he worked as culinary partner. Jaie O’Banner is managing partner, managing greeters, bartenders, servers, and culinary team. Karis Wells is field sales manager, handling community and guest relations as well as private dining and special events. And our service tonight by our server, David, is polished, prompt and attentive. 

Favorite Fare
We toast the opening of the new restaurant with a bottle of Schramsberg Mirabelle sparkling wine. Tonight we start with the weekly flatbread special of Roasted Eggplant Parmesan. The hot, fresh bread is wafer thin, moist and has just enough toppings of tomato, fresh basil and Herbs de Provence spice for an appetizing rather than filling beginning to our meal.

Next we enjoy another of the weekly offerings, Chilled Lobster and Shrimp Spring Rolls. Four divine Vietnamese style rolls bulge—in rice wrappers—with chilled pieces of succulent lobster and shrimp accompanied by three sauces: a cooling salsa verde, an aromatic lemongrass, and a sweet hot chili sauce. We love triple dipping them all in this delicious, light and flavor filled appetizer.

Tonight’s weekly special entrée is a grilled Corvina. But we decide on an entree from the spring menu—E.U. Certified Organic Cedar Plank Roasted Salmon. The large portion of pink salmon is beautifully presented on its cedar plank. And in each moist bite, both the quality of the fish and the perfection achieved in its preparation shine through. Accompanying fresh, tender veggies—fingerling potatoes, asparagus, and baby carrots—are also served on their cooking plank, and are further enhanced by an optional, tangy fresh dill sauce.

Desserts are small portions so you can order as few or as many as tempt you. We indulged in them all: Key Lime Pie, Red Velvet Cake, Belgian Chocolate Rocky Road, Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse, Mocha Macchiato, Pecan Pie with Vanilla Mousse, Market Fresh Fruit, Chocolate Raspberry Chip Cannoli, and Blueberry Cheesecake.  Portions may be small, but flavors are huge!

Published, B-Metro magazine, June, 2013