Breaking the chain: Chestnut Hill’s new standards in chain restaurants

Derek Kouyoumjian //

Thanks to the polar vortex, it’s way too cold out there to get much exercise. This time of year our credit cards are getting a better workout than most of us, and nothing works up an appetite like a shopping spree. Chestnut Hill’s ever-expanding consumer causeway (home to The Mall, The Street), is slowly emerging as a destination, but two of its venues are already bustling. Meet Brio Tuscan Grille and Seasons 52, the next generation in upscale chain restaurants.

While Brio is an airy, marbled space and Seasons 52 is marked by low lighting and clean wooden lines, both possess an old-school elegance. These aren’t family playgrounds. Also, both share impeccable staff training, on the floor and in the kitchen. Not drilled, just efficient.

Still, food styling is what sets them apart from each other, as the names make clear: Brio is inspired by Tuscany, with steaks (though not Chianina beef!), seafood and pastas. On a simple level, the bruschetta is exemplary — a mushroom and Fontina variety is lightly crisped outside and tendered with truffle oil inside — finished with a pinot noir red onion chutney for a hint of agrodolce.

Seasons 52 is seasonally inspired, meaning weekly specials are curated by the farmers market. They’re also health-oriented: No bread and butter here, and no dish tops 475 calories. More importantly, sustainable farming crops up often on the menu. Truffle oil is a top note in an organic arugula salad with shaved Parmesan and sauteed mushrooms. Organic edamame seasoned with sea salt and powdered green tea is a winning match. Pan-roasted organic salmon with roasted shucked corn has a welcome autumnal feel. It seems indie dining standards have infiltrated chain restaurants.

If you go

Brio Tuscan Grille
200 Boylston St., Boston
Entrees: $13-$29

Seasons 52
220 Boylston St., Boston
Entrees: $15-$33


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