Restaurant Report: Seasons Cafe

By any account, Deron Little is a madman. The chef and owner of Seasons Café, who recently opened a Bearden extension of his popular Farragut eatery, envisions a restaurant that responds to the seasons with complete change. That means four major overhauls every year—and, by overhaul, Chef Little means seasonal adjustments to everything: "We'll change everything from the menu, the seasonal tea, and garnishes for the water to the color accents of the space and the centerpieces on the table," he says. "Even the smell of the restaurant will change." Surely, he's mad—after all, you read about such ideas in far-off metropolitan places, but it's hard to imagine such dedication in your own back yard.

The new Seasons is located in the former home of Wok Hay, and Little has made magic with the redesign. The décor is elegant and urbane but also warm and comfortable: It's almost too nice to imagine changing at all. The area is subdivided into three unique spaces: a bar area, a dining room proper (that can morph into a private dining area thanks to movable walls and handsome drapery), and a middle space that includes seating right in front of the exposed kitchen. Those seats also feature little power stations for folks who work their devices though lunch.

Although he's been involved with some collaborations in the past, like Echo, with this opening Little has promised to be a one-concept guy because, he says, "This is the place, this is the right time for Seasons." That doesn't mean that there won't be more outposts, but it does mean that the chef intends to create a consistent Seasonal message. The restaurants will share menus, and Little promises that the dining experience, from flavor to presentation and service, will be consistent regardless of which Season's Café you visit.

"I visit both restaurants each day," he says. "Drake, my son, is the corporate general manager, and he helps maintain quality control and consistency. I think it's important always to have some family influence on site."

Seasons Café offers innovative American seasonal cuisine. Little opines that, "God meant us to eat certain foods at certain times of the year," so he, and his new corporate chef, Mark Roseberry, use the highest quality ingredients they can find and aim to influence them with the season, every season. They've certainly done a fine job with their Autumnal and opening volley in Bearden—from wall to plate, the experience is lovely.

Must Haves

Cinnamon Seared Diver Scallops: This dish almost defines the chef's intent, as it smells of the sea and tastes of autumn. The scallops, which are perfectly cooked and classically tender, are accented by cinnamon but never overwhelmed by it. It's a build-a-bite dish because, while each element is tasty alone, the combination of the scallop, pumpkin grit cake, and blackberry compote is a very tasteful experience that borders on amazing. The combination of flavors may seem odd when you read them, but the first bite confirms that the matchmaker knows what he's doing.

Rack of Lamb: Don't be fooled by the modest descriptor; the dish is a complex array of flavors that run the gamut between the naturally flavorful and chef-inspired goodness. The lamb itself is fork-tender and will tempt you to eschew the fork and use your hands. However, while the lamb may not seem to need anything else, you'll want a utensil for the tomato concasse—it's a sauce of chopped tomatoes that's a savory and rich complement. The plate also features gorgeous baby pattypan squash—they're wonderfully unadorned and delicious.

Season's Fall Harvest Salad: It feels disingenuous to praise a salad, and yet the textural and flavorful components of this example merit some pretty happy words. Perhaps it was the secret seasoning on the chicken breast, the savory dressing, or just the cool, crisp bite of the vegetables that made a great impression. Regardless, it was a beautiful presentation, a real mouthful of salad with long and lingering flavors of the season.