From the Seasons & Regions parking lot, you can see the dome of the Portland Jewish Academy across Capitol Highway, while the West Hills are a black-green silhouette in the background. The restaurant doesn't look like much from the road--a hunkering, brick-skirted building, once a Dairy Queen, with a patio sheltered from the elements by sheets of clear plastic. Around the corner, there's a driver-side pick-up window left over from the restaurant's former life.
Inside the humble hut, though, you'll find seafood of laudable freshness, prepared in dishes that make regulars of casual diners. You'll find a menu of the "groaning board" variety, with highbrow entrees listed democratically with homestyle standards. On a Saturday night, Seasons & Regions is packed, with families sharing hamburgers, couples picking at their petrale sole, hairdressers sipping mandarin Cosmos at the bar, guys just off a job site wolfing down meatloaf or fish and chips. The place is boisterous, and as cozy as a cabin under the low, acoustic-tile ceilings.
At Seasons & Regions, menu items and ingredients are deftly reformatted to suit one shift or another throughout the day. For example, the house-smoked Chinook salmon that tops your morning Nova Scotia benedict ($7.80) might be prepared as a caper-flecked smoked salmon/ avocado salad at noon ($10.95) or offered with sliced red onion and dill sauce in a dinner appetizer ($6.50). The crab cakes, proudly advertised as all-crab ("no bay shrimp filler"), likewise pull a long shift--topped with poached eggs at breakfast ($11.95) and starring solo at dinner ($9.50 for an appetizer). They're light, spongy and subtly flavored, the sweetness of the crab overpowered neither by cooking oil nor the peppery seasoning.
In some dishes, S&R draws upon Asian influences, as evidenced by an appetizer special on a recent visit: Ahi poke cups ($6.95) marinated, raw tuna stuffed into fluted fried wontons with minced onion, pickled ginger and sesame seeds. The dish, served on a bed of wasabi-dressed shredded cabbage, was unusually delicate and delicious. The fish was fresh and fine in texture, the marinade a pungent but unobtrusive blend of shoyu saltiness and tangy rice vinegar. The flavors of honey-ginger and lime simply dress a salmon-filet entree ($16.95), the fish patted with spices and seared, then served with elegant accompaniments--a fresh mango and pineapple salsa, as well as garlic whipped potatoes.
In contrast to the light touch with seafood, S&R offers an all-American heavy-handedness when it comes to meat and potatoes, with offerings ranging from brisket pot roast ($13.50) to meatloaf ($9.95) and tenderloin steak ($16.95). A recent "Wine Merchant style" rib-eye steak special ($19.75) grilled 12 ounces of beef, then topped it with an unusual sauce of Roquefort cheese pan-sautéed with a red-wine demi-glaze and sliced Red Flame grapes. All this may sound terrifying, but it tastes great--the pungent cheese melting over the meat, the sweetness of the grapes mingling with the heady red wine.
The wide-ranging menu offers some lower-calorie options, but the salads are mostly uninspiring. Surprisingly, it is a good place to come for cocktails (provided you can wrap up your revelry by 10 pm, of course). The liquor list includes a selection of single-malt scotches and boutique vodkas, and the martinis--served with the extra in a small glass pitcher over ice--rank respectably among the town's best. The froufrou cocktail trend hasn't escaped S&R's notice, either: Try the Sno Capped Cafe Mocha, an unholy concoction of iced coffee, Godiva liqueur, Skyy vanilla vodka and crème de cacao ($7).
Seasons & Regions' location in Hillsdale, 10 minutes from downtown, is a hopeful sign of a coming trend, where local restaurants offer specialized, thoughtfully prepared dishes in underserved locations. Overall, while Seasons & Regions is no Michelin four-star, it's a far cry from Arby's.
As for the reminder of the building's history, that old pick-up window around the side--it's still in service as part of S&R's "Curlers and Fuzzy Slippers" takeout service. While the convenience sounds great, that name has got to go. Especially at a suburban place that successfully spikes its meat-and-potatoes style with fresher flavors.
6660 SW Capitol Highway, 244-6400. 11 am-9:30 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Friday, 9 am-10 pm Saturday, 9 am-9 pm Sunday. Credit cards and checks accepted. $$ Moderate.
Seasons & Regions, open since 2001, is owned by chefs Joe Williams and Greg Schwab. Picks: Crab cakes, honey ginger and lime Chinook salmon, Cajun popcorn shrimp.