As a number of area apartment doors have made abundantly clear, Cupid is baaaack, and he's not fluttering away until we're all broke, frustrated or reduced to tears. (Or, we suppose, in loooove.) So we've taken a shovel to an avalanche of V-Day dining promotions piling up in our inbox, and have come out the other side with a number of recommendations, none of which beat observing Corporate Love Day by cooking your own dinner at home. Unless, like many New Yorkers, you have annoying roommates or absurdist kitchens or wholly unromantic dining areas!
Nevertheless, you might consider Chef Alex Ureña's cooking class on February 7th at Pamplona, where he'll be teaching guests how to prepare "a romantic Spanish meal for their Valentine." The class costs $65 and comes with a light lunch and Spanish wines; call (212) 213-2328 to sign up. Chef Franck Deletrain at Cafe Centro is also offering a class on the same day, for $75. Below, a breathtaking array of options for V-Dates, as well as some Anti-Valentine activities for the unattached.
Have a heart this Valentine's Day atIrving Mill (116 East 16th Street). Literally! For $85, surprise your date with a seven course heart tasting menu. It begins with Chicken Heart Tempura, continues with Cured Shaved Lamb Heart, peaks with Sweet Bread Stuffed Calves Heart Grand Mere (with Grilled Porcini, Thumbelina Carrot, Pearl Onions & Veal Bacon), and concludes with Hearts of Palm Tres Leche. The restaurant will also be serving a four course dinner sans heart for $75, and "adventurous singles" are invited to pull up one of 12 chairs at the giant round millstone table.
BarBao (100 West 82nd Street) has a three course tasting menu for $35; the Vietnamese restaurant recently received a nice review in the Times. Options include Grilled Honey Glazed Quail (Spicy Duck Hash, Ginger Jus), Poached Wild Bass (Braised Endive, Pickled Kumquat, Sweet & Sour Vinaigrette), and Vietnamese Mocha Bread Pudding (Candied Winter Melon, Coffee Froth, Cinnamon Gelato).
At Williamsburg pizzeria Motorino (319 Graham Avenue), Chef Mathieu Palombino will dish up heart-shaped Neapolitan pies to couples, served red with his San Marzano tomato sauce and slightly charred around the edges from the wood-fired oven. For an extra $15, he'll shave black winter truffles on top. And the restaurant is still BYOB, so you'll save a bundle on beverages.
For the haters, there's an Anti-Valentine's Day dinner at the recently-opened Absinthe (111 First Avenue between 6th and 7th), the East Village wine bar with the Parisian attitude. Chef Nelson German's four course, $45 prix fixe includes a glass of champagne or glass of wine, and emphasizes dishes that are "(bitter)sweet." Choices include Sautéed broccoli rabe with sun-dried tomato emulsion; Oven crisped Cornish Hen with Toasted almonds, braised red cabbage, bittersweet cranberry glaze; and Lamb Meatballs with Sautéed mustard greens, caperberries, golden sultana raisins.
For the lovers, there's L'Absinthe, the Upper East Side French brasserie (227 East 67th Street) that does in fact serve its namesake beverage. This place is old-school gorgeous, and Chef Jean-Michel Bergougnoux's three course $72 menu is in keeping with the elegant environs. Unlike most prix fixe menus, this one has a lot of options, so peruse the entire pdf menu at your leisure.
More modestly priced is the Lovers’ Recession Tasting Menu at Australian restaurant Bondi Road (153 Rivington Street). Not only is dinner cheap—$25 for two—but you can also take advantage of the $20 happy hour special offering all-you-can-drink for two hours. And sister restaurant/pub the Sunburnt Cow (137 Avenue C) will be holding its Second Annual No Love at the Cow Valentine’s Day Party, with a $20 all-you-can-drink special, including the Cow’s special "Love Potion." (We don't know what that is either.)
West Village charmer Braeburn (117 Perry Street) will be serving a $55 three-course prix fixe menu on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Valentine’s Day weekend. The menu includes such delicacies as Endive and Hearts of Palm with blood orange, walnut, mint; Lobster with parsnips, brussels sprouts and passion fruit sauce; and a silky Chocolate Soufflé for two. He's also doing a $25 prix fixe brunch that weekend, which includes a basket of muffins and scones for the table, plus a complementary mimosa.
Inside Park is a restaurant located inside the great hall of a community house connected to St. Bart's church. Ordinarily, the stage is occupied by diners, but on V-Day Gregory Moore and His Cosmopolitan Orchestra, a 12-piece, 1930s-influenced big band, will provide the musical accompaniment. Chef Matthew Weingarten, formerly the chef de cuisine at Savoy, is serving a three course prix fixe for $50 a head. Appetizers include the Voluptuous Breast of Lamb (Bronze Fennel, Black Walnut Chutney), and entree options include the Day Boat Sea Scallops (Spice Roasted Pears, Delicata Squash and Barley). There's also a Veal Roast for Two on the menu, a raw bar, and loads of dessert choices.
For the adventurous, there's another one of those "Dark Dining" events where they put blindfolds on you and serve a four course dinner while resisting the temptation to tiptoe away with your money. Read more about all that here; on V-Day they're doing two seatings at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. for $120 a person at Camaje Bistro (85 MacDougal Street). Call (212) 673-8184 for reservations.
At Williamsburg Japanese restaurant Zenkichi (77 North 6th Street) Valentine's Day is Valentine's Week, with a special Omakase for $75 per person, available starting February 11th. Omakase, which means "It's up to [the chef]," will include Winter Yellowtail, Awabi Abalone, Sweet Shrimp and Blue Fin Toro. But there's much, much more than that; Zenkichi's dinner lasts two hours, so make sure you and your date really get along.
Back on the bitter tip, The Village Pourhouse (64 Third Avenue, corner of 11th street) is hosting an "Ex-orcism" Party featuring with a dart board on which you to mount a picture of your ex. They're pouring free Bud Light for all who bring a photo for the dart board, and if you hit the bulls-eye you'll be rewarded with a free hour open bar. Plus you'll have proved to everyone that you are obviously so over that loser. No cover, cash bar, the hate-in starts at 10:00 p.m.
Somewhat less dysfunctional is the 1st Annual Valentine's Day Singles Ball at Hudson Terrace (621 West 46th Street). Formal attire suggested, champagne reception, chocolate covered strawberries, Swarovski crystal chandeliers, open vodka bar from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. sponsored by Orzel, DJ all night. Tickets are $30 for ladies, $50 men and can be purchased here.
The sweet Empire Hotel Rooftop lounge (pictured, at 44 West 63rd Street) isn't just for summer months; with its recently-installed fireplace and glass roof terrace, it's a romantic spot to stay warm while enjoying the commanding views. No V-Day prix-fixe here, but that can be a good thing, giving you a leisurely, unhurried experience. Seasonal cocktails include "The Gingerbread" (Ten Cane rum, Monin gingerbread syrup, apple juice and a splash of lemon), and Mulled Wine (Red wine, brandy and the Rooftop's signature blend of seasonal spices). For food there's Five Alarm Wagyu Chili for $12 (Wagyu beef served with toasted corn bread and sour cream) and Portobello Mushroom Panini for $14, among other items.
The five course tasting menu at intimate East Village restaurant/wine bar Knife + Fork (108 East 4th Street) is $45 per person. It begins with Pickled beetroot, truffle goat cheese, micro celery with a soft poached egg and overnight tomato and peaks with Lavender orange rubbed duck breast with lime mash, citrus salad, red onion marmalade, brussels sprouts and celeriac cream. For dessert, Chef/Owner Damien Brassel plans a Chocolate fondant with parsnip crisps and cranberry apple ice cream.
The newish Atria (13-15 West 54th Street, located in the midtown lounge and private party room formerly known as Grayz) is serving a five course tasting menu for $85, with choices including a grilled black bass with lobster, braised fennel, and saffron-orange emulsion. There's also a $55 menu with an entree choice between a braised flatiron steak or lobster tail ravioli. Chef Martin Brock has a number of options for vegetarians, and the dessert of quince consommé with rum raisins, candied walnuts, and spiced pear sorbe will surely put you in the mood to consomm-até.
Tony May, owner of "luxury" Italian restaurant San Domenico, is hosting a big (optimistic?) event planned for any high rollers left out there. For $230 per person (including open bar, not including tax and tip; seating is communal) you get a three-course dinner and dancing from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. inside an 1847 townhouse, with romantic rooftop garden (632 on Hudson). Skip the food, and $75 gets you the open bar party from 9 p.m. on. And on.
For $40 per person, Chef Michael Wurster (trained at Le Cirque, French Laundry) at ICON Restaurant (130 East 39th Street at the W Court) has created an "Aphrodisiac Menu" for the 13th and 14th. He promises that all the dishes are "carefully prepared with ingredients known to heighten sensuality and arousal. For example, Crispy Duck Confit (a sensual and decadent favorite of Casanova himself) is infused with lavender smoke, as the scent of lavender is known to stimulate female arousal." And the Poached Filet of Beef with spinach fondue, pomme soufflé, red wine shallot sauce turns men on "because the meat causes the blood to produce more of the amino acid tyrosine, which stimulates blood flow." Worth a shot, right?
Finally, SushiSamba (87 Seventh Avenue South) is doing a pre-V-Day sake party so you can quickly set yourself up with a date and avoid humiliation on the big day. On Tuesday, February 10th, Sake Sommelier Franklin Ferguson will host a Cupid’s Sake Pairing from 7-9 p.m. Here's how it works: Beginning Sunday, February 1st, NYC singles who register for the course can log on to the SushiSamba website and fill out a match-making questionnaire. Based on questionnaire responses, "and with the help of the little love god himself," SushiSamba will identify two to three prospective 'partners.' Registered guests will be notified of their matches names by email. Then, at the February 10th event, singles will have the chance to mingle with their ‘matches’ (identified by nametag.) Success can be followed up with a special V-Day dinner at SushiSamba, details here. Got all that? Who says dating has to be complicated!?