No Butter, No Problem

Seasons 52 takes the drudgery out of health-conscious fare.

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Seasons 52’s “Mini Indulgences,” tempting individual servings of classic desserts. See more photos below.When I first heard that a new chain restaurant had opened in King of Prussia with an under-500-calorie menu and a butter-free kitchen, I was intrigued but also a tad dismayed. Health-conscious fare I can get behind, but the “no butter” mandate seemed severe. After all, haven’t modern-day nutritionists been pushing moderation over exclusion as the secret to a sensible diet?

But after querying people about their experiences at Seasons 52, I found that I was in the minority. Apparently, not everyone out there loves butter quite as much. Nor do they seem to object to having their dietary parameters set for them while dining out, as opposed to making their own choices.

Interestingly enough, this rather high-minded culinary concept hails from Darden Restaurants, the company behind Red Lobster and Olive Garden, two places where butter (and bigger) has always been better.

Seasons 52 isn’t a health-food restaurant in the conventional sense. Stuff like wheat germ, tofu, bean sprouts and oat bran aren’t exactly well represented here. But, then again, neither are overly starchy, carb-rich offerings. Mashed potatoes are indeed on the menu, but a majority of the sides consist of seasonal veggies and grains—and the standard basket of rolls is very “out.”

Every item on Seasons 52’s menu is nutritionally balanced and has fewer than 475 calories. And while “fried” may be a dirty word, “wine” and “spirits” are not. In fact, Seasons 52 boasts an award-winning international list with more than 100 varieties—60 available by the glass.

Its specialty cocktails are trendy and tasty. I highly recommend the organic Sunshine Martini, made with orange-infused organic vodka and agave nectar. The beer list, though, needs more than just a little tweaking.

The menu at Seasons 52 shifts its focus, well, seasonally. Dishes change 52 times a year, based on the freshness and availability of local ingredients.

Along with its newfangled, low-calorie cuisine, a lively bar scene has cemented Seasons 52’s almost instant popularity. And complimentary valet parking is never a bad thing.

Though somewhat plain-Jane on the outside, Seasons 52 has an upscale, suburban-chic interior. You might even argue that its slate walls, gas fireplace, and contemporary mustard, brown, burnt orange, burgundy, gold and royal blue color scheme are to the 2010s what Bennigan’s was to the 1980s. (In fact, the eatery is located in a former Bennigan’s.)

On the night of our visit, the immense lounge was packed—and destined, it seems, to become the new see-and-be-seen destination for the mid-40s-and-up set. A pianist entertained the crowd while several bartenders hustled to keep what appeared to be an endless supply of wine and martini glasses full.

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