Thursday, May 19, 2011

Restaurant: Seasons 52 North Bethesda

Restaurant: Seasons 52, North Bethesda
Web Site:
Address: 11414 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, MD 20852
Phone: (301) 984-5252

Seasons 52 is a brand new restaurant (as of May 2011) across from White Flint Mall on Rockville Pike (the area known as “Kensington”, “Rockville”, or “North Bethesda” depending on which you think sounds more impressive). The circle of life on Rockville Pike states that when one new restaurant opens, another has to close. We’ll see how long this one will last.

First impressions are that it should be around a while. The restaurant is a chain, owned by the same group that owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse, and a number of others. However, Seasons 52 seems to be a good couple of notches above the others. Their gimmick (and the name) refer to a constantly changing menu to reflect seasonal changes in the food. They also had a nicer than normal wine list for a chain, live entertainment with a piano bar, and a very slick contemporary decor. The menu tricks are flatbread appetizers with a variety of unusual toppings, all the items on the menu are less than 500 calories, and for dessert they have small little portions of various cakes and pies all in identical little squarish glasses.

The flatbreads were very good, but they cool off quickly. Once cooled they are more like stale crackers so don’t let the conversation delay eating them. Crab was one of the toppings and very good. The edamame appetizer was also interesting in that some kind of green salt was served on the side and not sprinkled on top.

Most of us had a variety of grilled seafood, all very good. Everyone was very happy with their meals. We all tried different desserts - they way they are presented encourages the party to all pick different things. But, its difficult to share - they are very small. One is very satisfying for someone that normally doesn’t order dessert, and you can order more than one if you’re used to eating a whole pie.

A little on the noisy side. Part of that was the entertainment in the bar which was piped out into the dining area. A lot of glass on the walls also makes it hard to deal with reflected sound. We were a part of 7, and it was hard to hear what the other end of the table was talking about. Service was good, wine was good, kitchen was open as well.

All in all, an enjoyable experience and well priced for the quality. Could use some adjustment to the noise level, and parking is a super hassle because of poor design of the garage area for this newly developed building.

An update October 4, 2011

In the Washington Post Sunday Magazine section from October 2, 2011 page 27 Tom Sietsema was asked about his September 4 review of Seasons 52, and how he didn't inform of the sodium level in the food. The calculation was that a meal at Seasons 52 could contain more then 4,000 mg Sodium - yikes! (Mayo Clinic recommends 2300 mg per day, 1500 a day once you reach your 50s). For anyone who has reduced their sodium intake, a 4 gram hit can actually make you feel bad. We'll be sure to keep this in mind as we make restaurant choices in the future.

There's a lot of focus on calories. Many places are way too liberal in their use of salt.

Another Update, December 2012

Close to a concert, went again out of convenience.  Had a seat in the bar which was good because of the piano player, a little noisy otherwise.  Service was very good, including a very exuberant bartender with a love of gin (he was in good company).  Seems like they got the salt content under control, perhaps they read the above mentioned Washington Post article from last year.  Good for them, they are paying attention, and working on making things better, which is somewhat rare when dining in Montgomery County where places can be crowded regardless of the job being done inside.

The "dessert shooters" are still a fun gimmick.

Another Update, May 2013

Seasons 52 gets better with each visit.  So many places have a rough start, then jump up to a mildly better level and stay there.  Seasons 52 in North Bethesda is clearly paying attention and working to improve.  The concerns about sodium levels is largely gone, the noise level concerns can be dealt with by controlling where you sit, the service gets better each time.  At this point I can't think of a better place to dine for nice food thats a little upscale on Rockville Pike.  The wine list is good also (which is a challenge in Montgomery County) with lots of nice choices by the glass.  Seasons 52 has become a real "go to" for us, especially when dining a little early before the crush of the evening hits or on a weekday.

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