If the recent preview dinner for the media I enjoyed at Seasons 52 last week is any indication, Princeton and the surrounding area will embrace this new addition to the local dining scene. Yes, it’s in a mall, and yes, it’s a chain, but the resemblance to typical mall dining ends there. MarketFair is handy to town, decidedly upscale and, thankfully, not too huge. The restaurant aims high with freshly prepared seasonal dishes (none over 475 calories) and warm, clubby décor, plus they offer interesting wines, including dozens by the glass. The food I had was quite good, right down to a tender venison chop that’s on this week’s menu for $26.95. Entrées range from $16.50 (turkey skewer) to $27.95 (whole roasted branzino), vegetables are on the interesting side, and there are numerous options for small plates, flatbreads, small and entrée salads, if you don’t want one of the seafood or meat dishes.
The dining room is very nice (as are several private event rooms), and the bar is surrounded by plush booths for dining, with the wine cellar abutting some of those booths. And are those tiger stripes I see on the stools at the bar? This is a place you could settle into with friends, and wonder-of-wonders, the music was not loud or obtrusive, which will hopefully be the norm. (I see online the bar is billed as a piano bar, although there was recorded music playing when I was there.)
The menu changes with the seasons, and the Chef’s Suggestions column changes weekly. Menu selections include signature flatbreads (we had two, lobster/mozzarella & short rib/cheddar), cedar-plank roasted salmon, oak-grilled filet mignon and a range of Mini Indulgence desserts (only $2.75!).
Seasons 52 wines are selected by George Miliotes, one of fewer than 250 master sommeliers in the world. He was at our dinner which really added a lot to our enjoyment of the wines, which were (don’t gasp):
A small producer Champagne, the Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne,
A refreshing Portuguese Vinho Verde,
A powerful Mer Soleil Chardonnay from the Central Coast of California,
Organic Sinskey Carneros Pinot Noir,
Retromarcia Chianti Classico,
South African De Toren Fusion V. Stellenbosch,
Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva Rioja 2005 (This is one of the Riojas in The New York Times November wine lesson, although they suggest the 2009 since the 2005 is nearly impossible to come by now. Get it while you can at Seasons 52.),
All capped by a sweet Mosel Riesling with our choice of Mini-Indulgence desserts.
Somehow I managed a sip or two of each of these wines without an overload, I am proud to say.
Speaking of desserts, the Mini Indulgences are nice, small portions, so the emphasis here really is on savory dishes. And while I did notice high salt counts for some dishes on their nutrition chart (on their website), I didn’t really notice excessive saltiness in what we were served (If it’s a concern, of course mention that when ordering.)
And guess what? They are open on Thanksgiving Day!
Here are some photos of the dinner, click on any one to start a slideshow if you like.