Like the Red Sea parting, Valentine’s Day 2022 seems to be guided by unseen forces that have prompted the number of daily COVID cases to take a nose dive. Come Feb. 15, the city, in all its dining splendor, should be yours for the asking.
Nothing says Valentine’s Day better than chocolate. And no restaurant says chocolate better than the recently opened Chocobar Cortés, in the Port Morris section of the Bronx. The menu of this casual Caribbean haunt features only a handful of meal options, but all of them include chocolate in their recipes. Dark chocolate makes its presence felt in the serrano ham croquettes presented in tomato-garlic sauce. Chocolate weaves its way through and through the chalupitas de mofongo: roasted pork accompanied by pineapple pico de gallo, a guacamole made with chocolate, mole sauce, and a pique de chocolate. 141 Alexander Avenue, Bronx, 718-841-9310.
Another newcomer to the local dining scene, Osteria La Baia, is recognized in part for its reinvention of classic Italian dishes. Among them is a pizzaiola dish in which the part of the traditional steak is played by a whole branzino. For a classic presented in its classical form, opt for the ossobuco, braised to fork-tenderness, over a thick puddle of polenta. Tables are covered with a double thickness of snowy linen, and a small thicket of trees divides the dining room into intimate oases. Osteria La Baia, 129 W. 52nd Street, 917-671-9898.
Speaking of classics, La Goulue, the veteran Michelin-recognized French bistro, could have been picked up from any of hundreds of Parisian back streets and reassembled brick by brick on East 61st Street. The $125 three-course prix fixe is comprised of dishes that are also immersed in tradition. Among these you will find a roasted halibut adorned with crispy pancetta and partnered with Beluga lentils, an lsigny beurre blanc and aged balsamic. Veal chop served a la plancha is offered with pommes lyonnaises and a morels jus. All dinners commence with with a glass of Champagne and an amuse of cauliflower mousse and caviar. La Goulue, 29 E. 61st Street, 212-988-8169.
The Gotham Bar and Grill is back, this time sans Alfred Portale and with a shortened name: Gotham. A special $150 three-course Valentine’s Day menu is being featured, complete with live music, but the emphasis oddly is clearly on parties rather than couples. Show up as a party of four or five, and the house will throw in a complimentary bottle of Taittinger Prestige Rosé Champagne for the table. Make it six or more, and they sweeten the pot to include not only the bubbly but a nine-piece Gotham Chocolates Bonbon Collection for each guest in the party. Gotham, 12 E. 12th Street, 212-380-8660.