In Rookwood Exchange
3819 Edwards Rd.
Norwood, OH 45209
Flatbreads: $8 – $10
Appetizers: $5 – $12
Sandwiches & Salads: $7 – $16
Entrees: $14 – $20
Flatbreads: $8 – $10
Appetizers: $5 – $12
Small Salads: $5 – $8
Entrees: $12 – $29
Desserts: $2.50 each
Lactose Free Menu
The restaurant scene in Greater Cincinnati has been making an exciting comeback in recent years offering a wide range of dining experiences, along with a not-quite-as-strong but still respectable push for local, sustainable agriculture. We here at One Clean Plate love both – especially when the two come together. While we prefer to focus most of our attention on locally-based businesses and food issues, every once in a while a large chain catches our attention. One such chain generously offered us a chance to visit their latest addition for a tour and sampling of the food with the promise of healthy, seasonal food. Intrigued, we had to check it out.
Seasons 52, which opens its first Ohio location on February 4th in Rookwood Exchange, is a grill and wine bar offering ’seasonally inspired flavors’ modern American fare. The menu changes four times a year to focus on what is in season, and also features lots of organic produce – although unfortunately not local. Darden Restaurants which owns Seasons 52 recruited award-winning Chef Clifford Pleau to be their Senior Director of Culinary where he has crafted the menu with an eye toward fresh, in-season ingredients prepared in a simple and elegant way to showcase their natural flavors. Along with the focus on ingredients is also a focus on utilizing natural cooking methods such as wood-fire grills and brick-ovens. To top it off, all items on the menu are 475 calories or less.
To execute this meticulously crafted menu they chose Scott Anderson, Executive Chef Partner, who has over 20 years of experience as an executive chef from several cities around the United States. He’s spent the last 14 years as Executive Chef to five restaurants in the Bravo Brio Restaurant group, including Bravo in Cincinnati.
Award-winning Master Sommelier George Miliotes, one of roughly 180 world-wide, curates and continually updates the wine list for all Seasons 52 restaurants which features over 100 wines, around 52 of which are available by the glass. To make each restaurant unique, he also investigates local wines available around each Seasons 52 location in order to offer a local option – here’s to hoping he approves of our suggestion to offer Burnet Ridge wines. In addition to having created the wine list he also trains servers to know the wine list and to have a basic understanding of the wines and which items on the menu they pair well with.
Visible from I-71, Seasons 52 in Rookwood is hard to miss with its bright white sign glowing above the foyer. Parking is ample and easily accessible off Edmondson/Smith Road. The building is very contemporary with warm stone and wood accents, rich colors and stone pathways on the side of the building. Once inside we were immediately taken on a tour of the restaurant which began with the Chef’s Table – a private dining area that seats 10-12 people to have a unique dining experience featuring special attention from the chef himself. The decor is distinctly modern with glass chandelier above and glass topped table featuring a variety of spices placed underneath as the centerpiece.
This was followed with a look at the open kitchen – as promised it did feature wood-burning grills lit and ready to go and the brick-oven. The kitchen area consumes the entire right half of the building and can be seen from the majority of the restaurant. We also got a quick peek at the Napa and Sonoma rooms in the back of the restaurant, which offer private dining areas featuring audio/video equipment ideal for meetings, presentations or receptions.
Situated opposite of the kitchen is the circular bar which seats about 30 and has a piano in the center. Live piano music is promised every night after 6. Behind the bar is the wine room which has glass windows opening it up for viewing.
Finally there is the Carneros Room, my personal favorite, which is a small reception room beautifully decorated and set up as if for a small wedding reception. It has room for 12 tables and the same A/V equipment that the other rooms have. The feature of this room however is its large glass doors that open up to a private patio.
The main dining room, around which everything is situated, is large and filled with rich Honduran mahogany, vibrant colors, wine bottles used as both art and space dividers and contemporary art all complimented by the soft lighting.
There is a lot to Seasons 52, but it’s time now to get down to business – the food and wines. The interior is definitely nice and the chefs and sommelier are quite accomplished – but none of that means anything if the food is terrible. While we were a bit disappointed that the menu is “seasonally inspired” but not from farms/what’s-in-season-around-here, we wont pass up an opportunity to try good food and drinks.
Since there is such a focus on wines everything we got to sample was paired with a wine. First off were two flatbread appetizers paired with a Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne Champagne. We got to sample the Artichoke and Goat Cheese Flatbread as well as the Chipotle Shrimp Flatbread. The Artichoke and Goat Cheese was our personal favorite, but it has two of our favorite foods on it so how could we not? The flatbread itself was thin and crisp, but strong enough to hold the weight of the food. The Artichoke also had spinach, balsamic onions and roasted peppers on it, but the artichokes and goat cheese flavors were very strong. The Chipotle Shrimp was also topped with roasted poblanos, grilled pineapple and feta, and was overall very meaty with a hint of spiciness.
Several samplings of entrees followed – since there were so many I don’t know if the photos represent an actual portion that would be served but they were enough to give us a good idea of the food offered. First up was Organic Salmon with Lemongrass Sea Scallop Roasted on a Cedar Plank and paired with the Mer Soleil Chardonnay. The salmon was very flaky and the aromas of the lemongrass and cedar were strong – and very pleasant – throughout. The wine paired had a nice oaky flavor from the barrel which complimented the lemongrass and cedar.
A salad of Organic Field Greens topped with Grilled Mushrooms, Toasted Pistachios and Truffle Dressing paired with a 2009 Sinskey Pinot Noir from Carneros was next. The salad was very aromatic, with a hint of the truffle punctuated by the pistachio. The dressing coverage on the salad was perfect with just a bit on the majority of the leaves, rather than too light or swimming in oil.
One of my favorite items of the evening was the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli with roasted garlic, basil and organic tomato broth. The ravioli filled with the warm and creamy goat cheese paired with a hint of sweet tomato was fantastic. The wine paired this got paired with was the Chateau Roustaing Cabernet Franc, a Bordeaux from 2010. The wine was very earthy and flowery, and accented perfectly with the cheese and basil flavors.
The Mesquite-Grilled Piedmontese Strip Steak & Manchester Farms All-Natural Quail followed and were a very interesting coupling. The tender grilled steak sat atop mashed sweet potatoes – which had a flavor very reminiscent of the ones we had at Wise Owl Wine Bar in West Chester. It’s a creamy, sweet flavor that we can’t quite determine what it is, but drives us crazy as we love it and would like to know what it is (so, anyone who knows, leave a comment!) The quail was also very tender and very aromatic thanks to the herb crust.
Finally, our meal was concluded with a glass of 2010 Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese (what a mouthful) from Mosel and the “Mini Indulgences.” The Mini Indulgences are small glasses of varying desserts – of which we chose to sample the Pecan Pie, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Red Velvet and the Mocha Macchiato. The desserts all seemed to be essentially fluffy, creamy mousses. The Pecan Pie with Vanilla mousse tasted much like an actual pecan pie with whipped cream on top. The flavors were layered and topped with crushed pecans. The Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse was much like eating a buckeye or peanut butter cup, except creamy and silky smooth. The Red Velvet was very similar – layers of red velvet mousse and white chocolate then topped with a raspberry. As was the Mocha Macchiato – layers of chocolate and coffee flavored mousses. Each of the mini-indulgences were well balanced and felt like ideal portion sizes. The wine, while also sweet, was crisp which provided a contrasting but delicious mouth-feel to the desserts.
Of all the dishes we sampled everything was pretty good, some outstanding but there were none that left us disappointed. The wines paired were fantastic and the pairings were all spot-on. The atmosphere is contemporary upscale without being too formal, and perhaps a bit generic. I could see coming here for anything from a business meeting to a romantic dinner. We can’t speak to the portion sizes, but from glancing over the menu everything seemed reasonably priced.
As usual we took dozens of photos and it takes a while to go through all of them and post them. If you’d like to see more (and better!) photos from our visit to Seasons 52 be sure to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to find out when we post them. If you’re curious to see what’s on the menu we’ve got PDF versions of their Cincinnati Winter Lunch Menu and the Winter Dinner menu as well as some of the alternative menus available up at the top of the article in the Info Box.
Have you been to a Seasons 52 restaurant before? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Disclaimer: This review is a summary of our impressions and notes from a media preview held by Seasons 52 to showcase the new restaurant. We’ve done our best to remain as fair as possible and will not give the restaurant a plate or drink rating – we’ll return in a few months once the restaurant has been broken in and give them a proper review.
Verdict: We’re Hopeful
Seasons 52 is a grill and wine bar emphasizing contemporary American fare featuring seasonal menus to showcase fresh ingredients, many of which are organic, prepared in a simple style to prominently showcase the food’s flavors. The Cincinnati location which seats 330 people is the first in Ohio and is one of 23 Seasons 52 locations. Seasons 52 is owned by Darden Restaurants, Inc. The Seasons 52 brand debuted in 2003 and features award-winning Chef Clifford Pleau as the genius behind the menu who has taken inspiration from seasonal ingredients and the freshness of farmers’ markets. Award-winning Master Sommelier George Miliotes has curated the wine list for Seasons 52 which includes many organic and sometimes local wines as well.
There’s an emphasis on seasonality, freshness and inspiration from farmer’s markets – which may be true however they make no promises about actually being from farmer’s markets. I understand Seasons 52 is a big company and can’t make those promises. They do, however serve many organic foods and specifically noted that their salads are always organic. That being said, the food did taste fresh and none of the items that we sampled left anything to be desired. There’s also a big emphasis on wines and of the ones we got to sample every single one was fantastic and was perfectly matched with the dishes. To top it all off, everything on the menu is 475 calories or less – so while your wallet may be unhappy your waist line and taste buds should be just fine.
The decor is very contemporary with lots of rich, earthy colors everywhere from the stone and mahogany accents to the steel kitchenware and decorative wine bottles. It has a main dining area, a bar and multiple private party rooms ideal for business meetings or formal parties. The restaurant is not the place I’d suggest anyone take kids, but for a date or even friends and colleagues it’d work just fine.
Again, please note that this was a media dinner and take this as a preliminary look at the restaurant. This may or may not reflect what it is actually like – which we will cover in a future, proper review.