Valentine’s Day is the year’s biggest night for restaurants. Who doesn’t love love? For some it’s proposal night; for others, a renewal of vows. Or snuggle-up time. Or hoping-to-get-lucky night. The chefs await you with the most sensual menus of the year. Here’s a selection of romantic restaurants at a wide price range to make your evening enchanted.
Of course, you don’t necessarily have to go out. A personal favorite private celebration: two dozen chilled, super-fresh raw oysters from Blue Waters on India Street, to be eaten on the half-shell with a little Nawlins-style oyster sauce (bottled chili sauce, horseradish, lemon juice, Tabasco, a touch of Worcestershire if desired, carefully blended to taste). I don’t know whether oysters are really aphrodisiacs, but if you love ’em, well, yeah, they work. (Note: Amateur shuckers should wear a heavy glove or mitt on the oyster-holding hand, because if the oyster knife slips, there will be blood — yours.) Another wildly erotic oyster dish is available at the better sushi bars: “Honeymoon Oysters” (raw oyster, quail egg, tobiko, etc.). Whoo! I’ve tasted outstanding versions at the sushi bar at the Fish Market (of all places!), Tomiko’s in Encinitas, and Nobu in Solana Beach. Add a couple of uni nigiri and you’re on your way — to a sexy dinner.
You may have noticed the paper is a little smaller these days (hence, fewer words), so the listings below include only the neighborhoods and telephone numbers. Call and reserve as soon as possible if you hope to get in at your first, second, or third choice. Note: Prix-fixe prices don’t include tip, tax, or beverages except as noted.
Special Menus at Romantic Restaurants
1500 Ocean, Hotel Del, Coronado, 619-522-8490. A beautiful room overlooking a sea-view patio, with four courses (plus amuse) of chef Brian Sinnott’s delicious cooking for $100 per person, $40 additional for paired wines. Numerous choices for each course, including Kobe beef carpaccio or shellfish bisque to start, duck two ways, and vegetarian handmade truffled pappardelle with pea leaves for a main, and then outrageous desserts.
333 Pacific, Oceanside, 760-433-3333. Oceansiders finally have a romantic restaurant of their own, right under the pier. This new Cohn Restaurant Group venue will be offering a three-course surf-and-turf Valentine’s menu for $50.
Anthology, Little Italy, 619-595-0300. The city’s premier date spot for adults offers a four-course dinner with seatings at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. for $90, including a foie gras starter and entrée choices of surf-and-turf, roasted lamb loin, or monkfish (plus vegetarian option), all set to the music of the Anthology House Band Motown Review.
A.R. Valentien, Torrey Pines, 858-453-4420. Enjoy intimate small dining rooms filled with antiques and a special menu of Jeff Jackson’s superb farm-fresh cooking, with four courses for $75, $125 with matched wines. Highlights include Provençale-style huachinango (red snapper) or butter-poached lobster, followed by Sonoma duck or mushroom-crusted filet mignon with Bordelaise sauce. First and last courses are equally extravagant.
Bertrand at Mr. A’s, Banker’s Hill, 619-239-1377. The best cityscape view in town, and a three-course California-French menu at $85 per person, with numerous luxurious choices, including a vegetarian entrée and even a truffled “mac and cheese.”
Better Half, Hillcrest, 619-543-9340. This eclectic bistro offers a special menu on Friday the 13th, as well as the 14th, with a leisurely four courses plus amuse for $55 (wine pairings additional). Seatings at 6:00 and 8:30. Among the choices: wild-mushroom bisque served over a wild-mushroom terrine that melts into the soup; butternut squash ravioli with browned-butter Pernod and bittersweet chocolate sauce; half a Maine lobster in a soufflé, with roasted asparagus and lemon-tarragon butter — a recipe chef John Robert Kennedy learned from his friend Julia Child — followed by adventurous desserts. Vegetarian dinner available with 72 hours’ notice.
Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, Gaslamp Quarter, 619-233-6623. “Gimme some seafood, mama,” Fats Waller sang. This busy downtowner’s ambiance is more chic than intimate, but the menu is decidedly sexy: for $69 you get three courses, with numerous choices for each, including oysters on the half shell, crab cakes, or lobster bisque among the starters. Day-boat scallops with ravioli, grilled Prime aged rib-eye, and miso-tangerine-marinated salmon are among the entrée choices.
Candelas on the Bay, Ferry Landing, Coronado, 619-435-4900. (also in the Gaslamp Quarter, 619-702-4455). This new “view” location of the Gaslamp’s gourmet Mexico City–style restaurant, overlooking the bay, offers four courses for $75 (kids half-price), plus 17 percent tip. Includes one glass of house wine or beer. The exquisite menu includes lobster-stuffed smoked salmon rolls, foie gras and duck terrine salad, or a crab-cream soup, and a choice of fish or beef filet and dessert.
Crescent Heights, downtown, 619-450-6450. For $55 (with automatic 19 percent tip), plus $22 for paired wines, there are as many as five choices for each of three courses, plus additional dishes for supplemental fees. Among the highlights are chef David McIntyre’s haunting celery-root soup with black trumpet mushrooms or his noumenal Chino beet and burrata salad, and, among the desserts, the airy, ravishing lemon-ricotta tart.
Currant, downtown, 619-702-6309. Offers a $65 four-course menu (not final at this writing). The bar will feature special cocktails and a sparkling rosé called “Naughty Bubbles” for $14 glass or $50 bottle.
Eclipse Chocolat, University Heights, 619-578-2984. $65 per couple on Friday the 13th and Saturday the 14th for four chocolate-touched courses: cocoa-buckwheat crèpe with wild mushroom ragout, French onion soup with white chocolate olive-oil crostini, pink peppercorn-crusted pork tenderloin with cocoa, cherry, and shallot jus or baked fromager d’affinois with cocoa, cherry, and shallot jus, rose petal crème brûlée. Rush to reserve — several seatings on both nights are already sold out.
El Bizcocho, Rancho Bernardo, 858-675-8550. This exquisite hotel dining room, helmed by newly appointed avant-garde chef de cuisine Steven Rojas, will be serving a romantic ten-course tasting feast, each course presented on one plate for couples to share, $110 per person, $150 with matched wine pairings. Expect the unexpected.
Farm House Cafe, University Heights, 619-269-9662. Prix-fixe four-course (plus amuse) modern French dinners on Friday the 13th as well as Saturday for $45 per person, add wine pairings for $25 and an additional course of foie gras or oysters for a bit extra from there. Truffled-mushroom soup with duck confit or house-cured Alaskan salmon are the starters; surf-and-turf entrées match pork belly with scallops, or short ribs with shrimp, followed by ethereal desserts, including Meyer lemon panna cotta.