Baby, It's You | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Restaurant Reviews

Baby, It's You

We recently ventured over to the grand opening of Seasons 52 at the Galleria Mall (2428 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-537-1052). It's the second installment in what will undoubtedly become a gargantuan chain of restaurants courtesy of Darden Inc. Darden runs Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Smokey Bones; the company is movin' on up with Seasons 52. And you can bet your Prada handbag that its test concept, "seasonally inspired healthier dining," has been thoroughly researched, tested, evaluated, and strategized. The idea is very au courant: low-cal, flame-grilled meats; 60 wines by the glass; whole grains; fresh veggies; and desserts that amount to no more than a spoonful. Can you guess who this concept is meant to appeal to?

If you took one look at your spreading, baby-boomer paunch and just knew that Darden's top brass had painted its bull's-eye smack on your belly button, you'd be absolutely right. Seasons 52 serves no dish that's more than 475 calories. Judging from the decidedly pricey crowd of doctors, lawyers, and silver-haired doyennes we observed, not to mention entire tables dressed head-to-toe in black, the marketing department has hit its target dead-on.

What the organizers apparently didn't plan on was an opening-night turnout so immense that patrons were practically coming to blows as they jockeyed at the buffet for tiny plates of quail with mashed sweet potato, baby bites of roast pork tenderloin, and thimblefuls of grilled sea scallops. Low blood sugar, the 30-minute wait in line for food, and the liberal dispensation of free glasses of wine combined to raise the emotional temperature of these well-heeled Fort Lauderdalians to well beyond boiling. After half an hour of fending off queue-hoppers wafting clouds of Estée Lauder, even our own unshakable self-possession began to wobble.

Seasons' food is pretty good. The restaurant promises to make minor adjustments in the menu every week to reflect the changing availability of seasonal meat and produce. Apart from the "winter greens salad," the "cracked wheat and cranberry tabbouleh," the quail breast, and the turkey with Vidalia onions, the menu was only sort-of winterish -- but we weren't expecting Seasons to be the East Coast's answer to Chez Panisse. More's in store: If the concept works at Galleria, Darden has its eye on Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens, two more cities where the boomer ranges freely.