The next Hallmark holiday is almost here. And although two more weeks remain until Valentine's Day, remember it IS the most popular dining out holiday of the year. If you don't want to impress someone special with your stellar cooking and cleaning skills, here are a few places in various neighborhoods to book sooner than later. Because the holiday falls on a Sunday, many restaurants are encouraging customers to get a jump on celebrating by offering special menus on Saturday the 13th and the 14th. You can also try scoring a table at a certain revamped, freshly reopened L.A. favorite.
Domenico Ristorante has recently lowered prices and done some menu retooling, but Valentine's Day isn't the time to check out all of those changes. Its slate includes a $69 menu available on Saturday and Sunday, featuring swordfish carpaccio; red beet risotto with Santa Barbara prawns; Atlantic salmon with cauliflower sauce; duck breast with dried cherry sauce; and strawberry mousse or white and dark chocolate soufflé. The Hungry Cat is accepting reservations for its seafood-intensive $70 three-course dinner. Sea urchin ravioli, porcini broth and local squid; butter poached spiny lobster, pork cheeks, celery root puree and tarragon; diver scallops, risotto, foie gras and a slow cooked egg; and butterscotch crepes and hazelnuts are among the selections that evening.
Domenico: 1637 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 661-6166.
Hungry Cat: 1535 N. Vine St., Hollywood; (323) 462-2155.
West Hollywood-Beverly Hills Vicinity
Since the mood of The Bazaar has about the emotional restraint of a three-year-old, indulge whatever kind of feelings you need to that weekend. The seven-course $95 menu served from 6 to 10:30 p.m. is a Greatest Hits of sorts, with Jose Andres's Not Your Everyday Caprese, liquid olives, boneless chicken wings, and foie gras cotton candy in heavy rotation. (A la carte menu will still be available.) To truly go all out, check out the SLS Hotel's weekend package deals.
The Bazaar: 465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills adjacent; (310) 246-5555.
In the category of extend-the-party hotel possibilities, The Peninsula in Beverly Hills has all sorts of romantic plans going on. Outdoor dining at the Roof Garden Restaurant. Six courses at the Belvedere Restaurant ($125 per person, $175 with wine pairings). Private pool cabanas with a five-course dinner by candlelight, personal attendant service, roses, monogrammed napkins ($290 per couple). Cue Barry White...
The Peninsula: 9882 South Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 551-2888.
Eva's prix fixe Valentine's Day menu ($75 per person, $100 with wines) features choices of lobster angolotti; john dory with black truffle; Wagyu beef with onion and potato; and veal loin with peas and morels. At Ortolan, Owner/Executive Chef Christophe Émé offers romance-inspired meals starting Friday night, through Sunday brunch and dinner (dinner $60 per person).
Eva: 7458 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 634-0700.
Ortolan: 8338 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles; (310) 653-3300.
BLT Steak is assembling a "blackboard" menu ($70 per) in addition to its regular menu. The set menu takes on proteins both light and heavy, from the requisite aphrodisiac -- oysters -- with passion fruit mignonette, to filet mignon with truffles and bone marrow flan; coffee crusted venison loin; butter poached Maine lobster with vanilla infused gnocchi and anise. The blackboard menu includes champagne and chocolate mousse tart with candied pecans and dulce de leche.
BLT Steak: 8720 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 360-1950.
Sharing is caring at Rustic Canyon, where chef Evan Funke has a roster of 14 Valentine's Day dishes, from which each couple chooses eight ($75 per person). Crispy squash blossoms, fried baby artichokes, local artisan cheese plate, prawns with crushed chick peas and charred green garlic, grilled lamb chops, duck rillettes, passion fruit tart, and old fashioned banana split are seasonal and market-driven, as always.
Rustic Canyon: 1119 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 393-7050.
Josiah Citrin and Nyesha Arrington at Cache are planning a three- and four-course meal (plus dessert) for $65 Saturday, and $95 on Sunday, respectively. The ala carte and brunch menus will be served during the daytime. Options include ahi tuna and salmon tartare; roasted mushroom salad; potato leek soup "en croute"; Maine scallop with asparagus risotto; beef fillet with braised short ribs, crushed sweet peas, potato galette; pepper-crusted yellowfin tuna with sunchoke, edamame, port wine-citrus reduction; and Maple Leaf Farms duck breast. Also ocean-adjacent in Santa Monica is La Cachette's four-course Valentine's menu ($85 per person) all weekend, as well as its prix fixe Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. ($45 per).
Cache: 3110 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 399-4800.
La Cachette: 1733 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 470-4992.
Descanso Gardens is absolutely lovely this time of year. Valentine's Day dinner by Patina Group on Sunday has two seatings only, at 5:30 and 8 p.m., and includes glass of wine. (Descanso members $65, $73 non-members) It's safe to assume the kiddie train will be resting quietly in the station so as to preserve the adult mood. (Head back on the 20th for Charles Phoenix's Retro Slide Show of Southern California, complete with camellia cocktails for the annual camellia fest.)
Descanso Gardens: 1418 Descanso Drive, La Canada Flintridge; (818) 952-4391.
Palate Food + Wine: Leave it to Palate and Chef Octavio Becerra to put a unique twist on the holiday. This is the most unusual Valentine Menu we stumbled upon - "Valentines, Chinese New Years Style." So, if oysters and molten chocolate cake shaped like a heart aren't your thing, maybe Crispy Pork with Lotus Root Sticky rice and Daikon Radish is. $55 will get you a five course meal.
Palate Food + Wine: 933 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; (818) 662-9463.
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Luckily we live in a state where our embarrassment of romantic setting riches also happen to be a feasible feat in February. An easy road trip gets you to Santa Barbara wine country, where Artisan restaurant in Paso Robles has a five-course season dinner menu Saturday and Sunday ($69). Stick around Monday night for Chef Chris Kobayashi's Monday Night Supper series of family dinners with local food producers, which on February 15 welcomes L'Aventure/Olea Farm and Terrace Hill Olive Co. Or just pick a scenic spot among the many ridiculously gorgeous wineries and have a picnic.
Artisan: 1401 Park St., Paso Robles; (805) 237-8084.
Remember, it's perfectly OK to forgo romantic appearances and contrived ambiances. For those who have nothing to prove but your passion of sharing food with someone you love, there's all-you-can-eat at Korean BBQ Tahoe Galbi, the patio at Warszawa, or ceviche and a movie at Los Balcones del Peru. There's also another kind of heart food fest -- far from the Russell Stover variety -- the symbolism of which satisfies a spectrum of emotional needs.