A recent survey found that a nice dinner at a restaurant was the preferred Valentine’s gift of 48% of respondents, coming in 14 points ahead of chocolates, the nearest answer. If you haven’t yet booked a table at a romantic venue, here are a few recommendations.
Several of the places that merit consideration this year opened only recently. One is Steak Frites Bistro, in Hell’s Kitchen, which has the look and feel of an authentic French bistro, with a barbershop-tile floor and hanging milk globe light fixtures. The $85-per-person prix fixe menu for two does its part to kindle romance via the likes of bœuf en croûte, a thick slice of prime beef tenderloin spread with mushroom duxelles and encased in flaky pastry, and buttered poached lobster served with pommes Anna and leek fondue in a crayfish-perfumed sauce Américaine. Dessert options include a luxuriant raspberry soufflé, with dark chocolate and a Chambord ganache. Steak Frites Bistro, 496 Ninth Avenue (bet. 37th and 39th Sts.), 929-614-5070.
Another freshly minted space is the airy White Olive in Midtown. An $89.99 prix fixe menu complete with a complimentary mocktail promises such enticements as shrimp saganaki — baked shrimp with barrel feta, tomato sauce, ouzo, sweet paprika and chili pepper — perhaps followed by fresh-cut trenette tossed with parmesan cheese and portobello mushrooms in a creamy, truffle-scented roasted garlic sauce. Fresh seafood is on hand, too, including lavraki, a Mediterranean branzino fillet served on a bed of mixed greens. White Olive, 39 West 55th Street, 917-300-3105.
CASA TuLuM, which opened in mid-December, brings the flavors of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula to South Street Seaport. On Valentine’s Day, a special five-course tasting menu priced at $150 a person will commence with a champagne toast. Main courses invite a choice between robalo rosado — wild sea bass, pink mole pine nuts, and mezcal — and proteina, grilled ribeye with a Malbec-chili ancho reduction, and asparagus. The house will also offer a limited à la carte menu. Casa TuLuM, 229 Front Street (bet. Peck Slip and Beekman St.), 212-433-5800.
The Sea Fire Grill will likewise inaugurate its seafood-centric Valentine’s Day festivities with a champagne toast. Beyond this, the choices abound. Among the first courses offered on the $125-per-person prix fixe menu you will find tuna tartare with toasted focaccia and a lemon crème fraîche and a traditional lobster bisque with brandy and oyster crackers. Black squid ink spaghetti with fresh Maine lobster is one of the four listed main courses. New York cheesecake or chocolate mousse cake for dessert. The Sea Fire Grill, 158 E 48th Street, 212-935-3785.
Fusing disparate cuisines takes a sharp turn toward the unexpected in the menu at Maisonetta, located in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, which is likely New York’s lone purveyor of “French-Mex” cuisine. Will it be the grilled octopus with roasted Peruvian potatoes or the escargots de Bourgogne to start? Magret de pato unites pan-seared Long Island duck breast with mashed sweet potatoes and mole poblano topped with cherry tomato escabeche and grilled asparagus. Maisonetta, 141 Lincoln Avenue, Bronx, 347-297-4607.
Love is blind, we are told. You and your someone special can test that theory on Valentine’s Day by dining in the dark, literally, at Club 75 in Rockefeller Center. Two seatings for the 90-minute blindfolded dinner will be offered, one at 6:30 p.m. and one at 7:30 p.m. Diners can choose from among three menus — a Red Menu, which is meat, a Blue Menu for seafood, and a Green Menu for vegetarian. The cost of the event is $220 per person, plus a $19.54 booking fee. Club 75, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, 888-730-7307.