Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest nights of the year for dining out. According to stats compiled by the reservations service Reserve, a quarter of the entire adult population of the United States plans to go out for a meal on February 14 (in L.A., the average total bill for that meal will be $297, by the way).
The best chance to snag a prime table? On or before February 3, the data suggests. After that, you’re going to be fighting for the leftover 5 p.m. bar seatings with all the other procrastinators. We don’t want you to let that happen this year, so get the jump on these romantic options while you still can.
Dominique Ansel is taking inspiration from Hollywood romance for his special Valentine menu. The $80 set menu is a parade of courses, each taken from a pivotal moment in a classic romantic movie. That means spaghetti and meatballs from The Little Tramp (here done with truffles, confit tomatoes, and other chef-y touches), sea bream ceviche floating on an iceberg for Titanic, and even an amuse bouche version of a pastrami sandwich, like the one Meg Ryan was so excited about in When Harry Met Sally. (189 The Grove Drive, Fairfax)
If you’re not into the trad trappings, you and the boo can channel your inner Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg at Silver Lake’s “lazy French” wine bar, Melody. They’re declaring the 14th “Valentine 69” and offering a bottle of wine (your choice of red, white, or rosé options) and a dozen oysters to share for $69. The full standard food and wine menus will also be available. In the background, tunes by DJ duo (and actual couple) Vyra and The Internationalist will spin an all-love-songs set, and the staff hands out blankets to cozy up on chilly patio nights. (751 N. Virgil Ave., East Hollywood)
Tallula’s year-round motto is “hecho con amor,” and they’re putting that love into their first-ever Valentine’s Day menu. Enjoy a set menu with a variety of dishes including crab nachos and prime beef fajitas for $65, and add a wine or agave-spirit pairing for an extra $35. If you prefer to go your own way, the regular menu will also be available. (118 Entrada Dr, Santa Monica)
When your Valentine is a little bit extra and just won’t be impressed by regular restaurants, there is TAO. Expect high-drama everything, from the decor to the scene to the food. On V-Day you can order your selections a la carte from the main menu, plus some special one-night-only offerings, including a heart-shaped chirashi sushi, with fish, quinoa, gochujang glaze, and kinome. For dessert, try a strawberry-rose cake topped with chocolate strawberries, candied rose petals, literal gold leaf, and…Pop Rocks. (6421 Selma Ave., Hollywood)
Go off the beaten path by slipping into the snug Hedley’s in West Hollywood. The food is seasonal and farm fresh, and all dietary proclivities from meat lover to gluten-free vegan will find something to satisfy their needs. Hedley’s menu is driven by each day’s market haul, but some recent dishes have included spaghetti bolognese (in traditional and vegan versions), wild-caught shrimp with tofu, radicchio, and black Tuscan kale, and shishito peppers with crushed chickpeas. (640 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood)
Red Herring is owned by real-life married couple Dave Woodall and Alexis Martin Woodall, so there must be romance in the air, right? Fancy, floral wallpaper, plush velvet seats, and flattering lighting don’t hurt, either. Stick with the theme by sipping The Paramour cocktail (Aperitivo Cappelletti, cava, sparkling wine, and orange) before tucking into your meal of comforting California cuisine. (1661 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock)
French cuisine is always a date-night fave, but Belle Vie is upping the romance even more with a special Valentine set menu of plates designed for sharing. The dishes are rich in ingredients considered aphrodisiacs (also: Brie) and the meal will be served by candlelight. (11916 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles)
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