Summer menus

Posted on 21 Jun 2012 at 10:41pm

Dining3

Summertime, and the living is easy — unless, of course, you’re a Copper River salmon from Alaska, then it’s certain death. But what a noble way to go.

The season officially kicked off this week, and many high-end restaurants are unveiling their new menus, taking advantage of the fresh and light fare we demand of the warmer months.

It’s a hike to Season 52 in Plano, though it won’t be for much longer; another location will open in the old McCormick & Schmick’s place in NorthPark Center by December. Until then, you’ll just have to take the drive north along the Tollway to experience one of the better concepts in healthy cooking.

It’s easy to poo-poo Seasons 52 as corporate cooking (it’s part of the Darden group, which includes fast-casual chains like Red Lobster); it would also be a mistake. With a philosophy premised on healthy eating — no dish on the menu exceeds 475 calories, and butter has been relegated to a faint memory — the kitchen is full of alchemists, solving the Rubik’s Cube of low-cal flavor. And it succeeds astonishingly well.

The salmon (pictured, available only for a few more weeks) proves the point: The piece I had there recently was about as fine as any fish I’ve ever eaten. Richly colored and judiciously seasoned with only a dill sauce and lemon, it’s sauteed skin-on trapping the moistness of the flesh, complimented by a lively corn risotto.

The Copper River salmon is merely the star of an excellent menu, which also includes a new lobster spring roll (fresh and accompanied by a trio of salsas, the best being an elegant spicy-sweet chili chutney) and a complex and diverse vegetarian tasting menu that includes a grilled beefsteak tomato covered in tapenade and a mini chile relleno. These all join the standardbearers of Seasons 52’s fare: the crisp flatbreads, the bone-in strip steak and the desserts, especially the key lime pie and carrot cake, that cap off a great summer menu. The NorthPark shop can’t open fast enough for me.

Closer to Downtown is The Pyramid inside the Fairmont Hotel, which continues to explore local solutions to the issue of inventive New American cuisine with a menu it debuted on Wednesday.

Something that always impresses me at Pyramid is how the small things are almost more important than the big ones. The technique is simple, clean and approachable (often using items from the on-site garden). That’s why a mere corn ravioli — wide as a child’s eye, and topped with a sliver of chicken skin — could be the best new item here, as deftly rendered as a bit of pasta can be. Fresh corn just sings of summer.

So does watermelon salad, compressed so that it’s dense but refined, with the tang of sangria and feta. (Add a punch of salt to draw out the flavors even more.) There’s salmon here, too, served as medallions wrapped in leeks, and one of The Pyramid’s traditional strengths:  A torchon of foie gras that’s creamy and floral. Food like this makes the Texas heat bearable.

— A.W.J.

Visit DallasVoice.com for more photos from Seasons 52 and The Pyramid’s summer menus.

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