The Gossiping Gourmet: The menu changes with the seasons

Seasons 52 has opened at South Coast Plaza.

Occupying the first floor of the building that used to house the old Clubhouse restaurant, Seasons 52 brings its concept of a seasonally inspired menu with no dish counting more than 425 calories. The award-winning wine list features an international selection; in fact, wine bottles play a prominent part in the handsome, casually sophisticated décor.

With elements of dark wood and natural stone, the two large rooms have a club-like atmosphere, although there is patio dining as well. The spacious bar area has large comfortable booths lining the walls and a huge central bar with a grand piano on a platform in the center for the evening's entertainment. If you prefer the background music to really be in the background, choose the quieter dining room.

This is a corporate restaurant with branches around the country, which means that the wait-staff is very well trained and also quite knowledgeable about wine. The menu changes four times a year, reflecting the seasons, and the specials change weekly, as conceived by the local chef, based on regional differences.

We made our selections from the new autumn menu, beginning with flatbread as thin as construction paper, with a cracker-like texture. There are five to choose from including: steak, chicken, shrimp or two vegetarian; and a weekly special, which was fig, goat cheese, bacon and arugula. The latter sounded appealing.

Arriving on a long, narrow clay plank, the sweet figs were balanced by a smattering of goat cheese and salty, crunchy bacon bits. The peppery arugula was a nice finishing touch. The bland cracker crust, however, was only a vehicle for getting everything else in your mouth and the balsamic glaze was too sweet in combination with the very sweet figs.

Maui tuna crunch is an entrée salad with an unusual presentation, in that the miso dressed greens are served in a large clear plastic cylinder placed on the plate and then dramatically lifted away much in the style of a magic show. The salad spills onto the plate next to a duo of tuna preparations: thin slices of seared sushi-grade crusted ahi and a stack of tartar resting on pineapple almond salsa. The seared tuna was ruby red and fabulous but the drizzle of strong sweet sauce was too intense and actually superfluous. The tartare was under seasoned and completely overwhelmed by the powerful salsa.

A generous portion of seven caramelized scallops was sweet and moist, sitting on a bed of delicious sun dried tomato flavored pearl pasta. There was no sauce to speak of, just a nice, tasty jus. Al dente asparagus finished the dish.

Another special was chili rubbed pan-seared swordfish. The tender and flavorful fish turned out to be a pleasant surprise. (It's so hard to find good swordfish these days.) The rub added just a little spicy aftertaste and once again, a light, flavorful jus served as the sauce. The accompanying roughly mashed yams were absolutely delectable and fresh green beans were cooked to perfection, only the broccoli was disappointing, as it was too tough to chew.

If you are wondering how chocolate peanut butter mousse or key lime pie can be under 425 calories, the answer is easy … portion control. Their unique presentation is a tray of small glasses of layered goodness making for a mouth-watering array of desserts. If you can't choose between these tempting treats, at $2.75 each, you can always have more than one and throw caution to the winds.

We tried lemon cake, layered with lemon mousse and whipped cream and Rocky Road with no rocks (nuts): chocolate cake, chocolate mousse and ganache, topped with itsy bitsy candies and marshmallows. We found ourselves easily satisfied with one each, since they were quite sweet.

Seasons 52 is a well-conceived and well-run establishment, giving another option for shoppers at South Coast, pre-theater/concert-goers at the Orange County Performing Arts Center or as just a nice new place to meet and eat.

ELLE HARROW and TERRY MARKOWITZ were in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. They can be reached for comments or questions at

Seasons 52

Where: 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa

When: Lunch: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dinner: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday; 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday


Appetizers: $4.95 to $11.25

Entrées: $15.95 to $26.95

Desserts: $2.75


Bottles: $29 to $229

By the glass: $7.25 to $19

Corkage Fee: $15

Information: (714) 437-5252

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