Words, And Foods, Of Love

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - February 09, 2005
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Romance is in the air — and restaurateurs couldn’t be happier.

But I’m so much a believer that it’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with that makes for romance that I have to admit, the one night of the year I never make dinner plans is Feb. 14.

And I know that none of the restaurants mind me saying this — they’re swamped enough on the busiest dining night of the year and certainly don’t need my help.

Valentine’s night might be the one that your partner wants to go out to dinner, but it’s not the night of the year you’re likely to get the best service — or in some cases the best food. With most restaurants booked to capacity it’s a tough night to be out.

That’s why I’m glad to see most restaurants are taking advantage of the fact that Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday this year.

Romantic dinners will be featured from Friday , and my advice is take advantage of the prolonged romantic weekend and go for dinner on a day other than Monday. The service will probably be a little more attentive and the kitchen will be less hectic.

Plus, you’ll have a much better chance of getting a reservation.

If you still haven’t made one, here are a few spots you may want to share with your Valentine.

It’s no secret that I love Donato’s. Love the food, love the ambience, love the passion of the chef, love the Valentine’s night menu which this year features some outstanding dishes — including Tristan lobster tails. Donato is Italian, so you’d expect his restaurant to be a perfect place for lovers, and it’s no surprise that many of the top romantic restaurants are ones where Italian food is featured.

When you think about it, I’m not sure anyone ever got really cozy over a portion of pipikaula or longed to kiss their partner after a first date dish of kim chee spare ribs. Sharing food is an essential part of a romantic dinner — and many restaurants are now catering to those who enjoy small plates of food. I would say that Vino, with its outstanding wine list, is romantic enough to make my list, and that just a few steps away Sunset Grill’s Valentine’s menu is made for sharing. “We did a couple of shared appetizers and then offered the main food groups to keep everyone happy,” jokes Executive Chef James Gillespie.

If a view is as important to your evening as the food, then certainly you’ll want to try and get a reservation at Aaron’s, Sarento’s, Mariposa or Longhi’s, where city lights — and fireworks on Fridays — complement the ocean view afforded by the restaurants’ locations. I’ve always found Bali by the Sea at the Hilton a particularly romantic restaurant, and from time to time they offer good value kamaaina special dinners that make the trip all the more special.

Auntie Pasto’s always gets my vote, too because I think it’s the perfect first date place. The price is right, the ambience is great and it serves the food we most associate with romance. Pasta.

Indigo serves up romantically sized portions, with names as delicious to read from the menu as they are to eat, and the outside bar with tropical plants and backdrop waterfalls adds much in the way of romance. Go on a night when it’s raining and you can’t fail to be drawn into a romantic mood. And Nick’s Fishmarket, with its old world charm and attention to detail is always a romantic place for me.

But at the end of the day, romance comes from somewhere other than a pretty restaurant setting, a dozen roses or a gorgeous plate of food.

It can come in the shape of a bowl of saimin shared late on a rainy afternoon, homemade eggplant Parmesan with spaghetti, or even in the simple form of a tuna sandwich made with love on a day when you need it most.

At least it does in our house.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

E-mail Jo McGarry at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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