Los Angeles has plenty of places for a romantic rendezvous to spice up your date night. The idea is to keep your significant other intrigued, and of course to keep his or her belly full — because isn’t that the way to anyone’s heart, through their stomach?
Here are some suggestions for an exciting food date beyond the typical night out.
Tantalize their taste buds at this new neighborhood restaurant on Robertson Boulevard, with outdoor seating and a massive indoor space, for a cozy booth date or a communal dining experience with new friends. The waitstaff is welcoming and the food is exceptional. Begin your night sipping a gin-based cocktail with rose petals called Wake the Angels ($15) and move on to the fig and ginger mule ($14).
Share smoked Norwegian salmon ($15) on a crunchy hash brown with crème fraîche and arugula, black truffle cheese fondue with warm pretzel bite knobs ($13) or the sinful Surf & Surf ($39), with luscious chunks of crab marinating in warm butter, served with chilled Mexican shrimp and grilled bread bites. Save room for entrees like the succulent short rib with homemade English pea ravioli ($24) or seared ahi tuna ($29) in a bowl of green curry coconut rice with lemongrass broth.
The coffee bar offers intriguing options such as a flat white, the Butcher (two shots espresso, Colombian drip, splash sweet cream) and the Wildflower (espresso, vanilla, splash of chai, steamed milk). Brunch and lunch also are offered, along with a perfect bar for post-work meetups.
120 N. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Grove; (424) 204-1595, thehenryrestaurant.com/locations/the-henry-west-hollywood/.
Step into the 1920s for a night neither of you will soon forget, as you are transported into an episode of Boardwalk Empire or perhaps to the Pigalle in Paris. For the first time in 70 years, Carondelet House is bringing cabaret back. It's where French-born proprietor Jean Marceau, in 1928, began his dream of importing Parisian cabaret to L.A. The stunning historic home, now an entertaining space, got its name from the S.S. Carondelet, the ocean liner that brought Marceau to America.
A magician awaits, a sketch artist may draw you as you sip your absinthe, and dancers roam throughout the night to get your heart pumping. The night is structured around a master of ceremonies who tells a tale of the cabaret. After cocktail hour, phones are taken and checked so everyone can be fully present. In your black tie and vintage flapper garb, enjoy a dinner of five or more courses, including lobster claw, Niman Ranch tenderloin and wine, as live music and scantily clad performers take you on a wild erotic ride — with smoke and windows and candles and wax. The $300-per-person evening includes memories for a lifetime.
627 S. Carondelet St., Westlake; nuitblanche.me.
Dine like grown-ups in Beverly Hills at the opulent five-star Peninsula Hotel. Woo them with a taste of Mediterranean Californian cuisine. Soak up the sunshine on the terrace or sit inside at an elegant table, with French country chairs, surrounded by impressive modern art. To dine here always seems special. Personable executive chef David Codney keeps dishes simple by using high-quality, locally sourced ingredients, wild-caught seafood and even ingredients harvested from the hotel’s rooftop garden.
You can expect world-class service in this warm, inviting atmosphere as numerous servers take care of your every need, from squeegeeing the crumbs off your linen to spacing out your food selections and making sure your wine glass doesn't run dry. If you can sustain the carbs, ordering the gnocchi porcini ($21) and duck confit orecchiette (pasta that looks like small ears) with fancy mushrooms and sundried tomatoes ($22) is a must. The Dungeness crab flatbread ($22) loaded with fresh crab plus confit tomatoes is a good starter to share.
Add a charred C aesar with crispy Brussels sprouts and kale with a white anchovy peppercorn dressing as a side ($21), or share the Mr. Z Mediterranean market salad with crunchy pita crisps ($18). Move over, boring old cauliflower. Here comes a whole-roasted cauliflower head ($15) with garlic aioli, gremolata flavoring and crunchies on top.
End your night with the luscious bombolini (doughnut holes filled with cream) or the jaw-dropping Fabergé egg decked in edible paint and gold foil and little holes — perfect for Easter and springtime. Crack the chocolate egg to reveal the contents of chocolate fudge and gelato or one of the rotating flavor combos.
The Peninsula Beverly Hills, 9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 975-2736, beverlyhills.peninsula.com/en/fine-dining/the-belvedere.
For a boozy brunch the morning after, keep your date fired up with Spiked Cereal Milk ($14) at this fun little breakfast bar spot. Cocoa Puffs with vanilla vodka, peanut butter Cap’n Crunch and bourbon — yes, please! Nighthawk was founded by celebrity chef and restaurateur Jeremy Fall. You can soak up the strong pours with chicken and biscuits ($17) or sweet potato pancakes, candied bacon, drunken (brandy-infused) French toast with krispies coating the brioche ($15), duck confit hash ($16) and benedict fries ($12) with pit-smoked ham, peppers, Gruyère and smoked paprika hollandaise sauce with an egg on top. Open until midnight or later. Warning: Do not enter if you are on a diet, have dietary restrictions or are a picky eater who wants to change menu items with substitutions.
417 Washington Blvd., Venice; (424)835-4556, nighthawkrestaurants.com/home.
For elevated pub food (local and organic, of course) in a casual, comfortable English pub setting, the Pikey offers a relaxed atmosphere to snuggle up at a booth. Loosen up the conversation with a pint of beer from the stellar list while indulging in fish and chips ($19), Welsh rarebit ($6) or char-grilled beef burger with Worcestershire aioli ($17). For healthier options, go lighter with vegan curry with seasonal veggies ($16). Where else can you find happy hour from midnight to 2 am. on weekends?
7617 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 850-5400, thepikeyla.com.
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SHOW ME HOW
For a memorable culinary experience, surprise your date with a train ride to Crossings in South Pasadena, just a short hop from the Gold Line station, only one stop from Highland Park. One of our favorite meals of last year came from Gargantua, a Santa Monica popup. One of Gargantua’s chefs, Kevin Malone, has now made a new home at Crossings. This South Pasadena two-story exposed-brick restaurant, in a historic 1908 building, is centrally located on charming Mission Street. The intimate, comfortable space features two bars, a wine loft and a patio with a 100-year-old oak tree. The ambiance sets the mood, but the thoughtful food menu and carefully cultivated wine selection are the real winners.
The artistic chef concocted an impressive menu with unique dishes like uni carbonara ($38); hamachi collar ($42), flame-broiled and rubbed in the Yucatán spice pibil and served with handmade tortillas; beef tartar ($18) with ginger; roasted sunchokes ($12) with a habanero orange glaze; hamachi verde ($18) with snap peas and kaffir lime; and spinach mushroom salad ($15) with maitake and beech mushrooms. For dessert, there's a pot de crème ($12) with hints of ancho chili and espresso, topped with rice and almond-flavored horchata foam.
1010 Mission St., South Pasadena; (626) 799-7001, crossings-restaurant.com.