When Season’s 52 first opened in 2003, I was invited to a business dinner at Season’s 52, a Darden restaurant in Orlando. I was impressed by the food (super fresh and well prepared) and the concept (a menu that changes seasonally, with weekly local specials, using fresh local ingredients).
I’m not a chain-restaurant diner, but with that experience so good, I visited again, this time to the Boca Raton location. The evening started with perfection. A friendly, engaging server, who — since I was wearing black — switched the white napkin to a black one “so I wouldn’t get lint on my clothes” and explained the restaurant’s health concept with no dish more than 475 calories and use of local ingredients.
I inquired about the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli with roasted garlic and fresh basil in a light tomato broth ($7.95), and learned the chevre comes from Laura Chenel, the artisanal California cheesemaker who introduced America to goat cheese. The giant, freshly made pasta ravioli was filled with her creamy, melt-in-the-mouth goat cheese, topped with diced tomatoes in a light basil-garlic broth. Perfection. It whet my appetite for the next dish of Roasted Artichoke-Stuffed Shrimp with wilted leaf spinach pasta pearls and clam cioppino sauce ($21).
The clam-less cioppino sauce over the pasta in the center of the plate was fine. But the five small shrimp were overcooked and topped with a briny, bready artichoke mixture that was so salty I couldn’t swallow even a bite. The waiter, happily took that away and asked what I’d like as a replacement. I asked for the Caramelized Sea Scallops grilled and served with roasted asparagus and tomato-mushroom pearl pasta ($19.70).
The chef delivered the replacement dish - did he do this often, I wondered, or was it because he learned I was taking photos? Sad to say this entree was worse than the first. The scallops were grilled, but certainly not caramelized as described, the asparagus were under cooked and the plate sparse. Mum was the word this time.
My meal here — just like my opinion of this restaurant chain — started on a high point and ended in a fizzle. That said, I’d still suggest going for a glass of wine and the ravioli – a perfect lite bite. I can’t recommend any more than that…
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