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With its eclectic menu and expertly prepared food, Seasons will shatter your prejudices about strip-mall restaurants.

Breaking the Mold

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Seasons Restaurant
Village Marketplace Shopping Center
13124 Midlothian Turnpike
Lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Dinner Monday-Saturday 5-10 p.m., Sunday 5-9 p.m.
Brunch Sunday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
379-0444

Shopping centers have never been my favorite dining destinations. There's something very uncool about eating at a place that is flanked by the likes of a CVS and an A&N. Nothing against those fine establishments, but they don't do much for atmosphere, a key ingredient in any meal.

We called ahead to make a reservation at Seasons, located in the Village Marketplace Shopping Center in Midlothian. When we asked about appropriate attire, they indicated that blue jeans were not acceptable. A restaurant in a shopping center with a dress code!

Arriving around 7 p.m. in our Sunday shoes, linen and khaki, we were ushered to a booth within a moment or two by a waiter in a tux.

We started off with a good look at the wine list and chose a bottle of Caliterra Cabernet Reserve from Chile for $21.95. The list was carefully assembled and the beer list, while not exhaustive, was complete in its scope.

While we sipped we read the following menu introduction: "Our goal at Seasons is for each of our guests to relax and enjoy a wonderful dining experience. Chef Taki takes great care to prepare each meal individually with only the freshest ingredients. Each meal is an international treasure, always worth the wait." Perusing the menu, we saw the manifestation of the international flavor set forth — in the appetizer category alone there was carpaccio, escargot, yakitori and shrimp and grits.

For starters I chose the Oriental pocket dumplings ($5.95), figuring I ought to sample the native wares of a Japanese chef. Stuffed with steamed seafood — scallops, shrimp and crab — the dumplings were served with an absolutely heavenly sauce that was a far cry more tasty than the usual soy.

Bottomless Pitt opted for Southern fried green tomatoes with shrimp and tomato relish ($8.95). Wondering what on earth a chef from the other side of the globe might do with this down-home regional oddity, B.P. nearly had a smirk on his face as he placed his order. When they arrived in all their crusty fried splendor, the smirk was replaced by a smile as he devoured every crumb.

The entrees presented a challenge. Chicken, beef, lamb and veal all looked delicious, as did the 10 seafood entrees. Most were priced below $20 and all are served with a house salad.

After much pondering, B.P. ordered the stuffed grouper ($19.95), curious as to how exactly one stuffs a grouper. Our attentive waiter explained that the fish was in fact folded over the crabmeat, shrimp and herbs. I chose one of the evening's specials, an 8-ounce filet topped with crabmeat.

Both of our dinners were prepared to perfection. My filet was warm medium rare, and the crabmeat that graced both of our plates was divinely fresh and generous. B.P.'s fish was tender, moist and flaky, and his side of mixed veggies were steamed just right. He ate all of his dinner and finished off what I could not handle on my plate.

There is every reason to return to Seasons. For one, the menu changes four times a year, hence the name. In addition, the service was professional and respectful — none of this "yeah and yo" stuff. The seating is not the most comfortable in the world — our booth seats were a bit lumpy — but the dusky candlelighting, original paintings, tablecloths and general air of civility were all appreciated. I urge you to cast aside any shopping center prejudices you may have and seek out Seasons. The food really was an international treasure, well worth the short wait.

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