Valentine’s Day can make hearts race and palms sweaty, particularly for diners scrambling to impress lifelong mates or newfound partners. Of all the holidays on the restaurant calendar, Feb. 14 is perhaps the one packed with the most pressure. Some avoid the cauldron altogether by staying home and downing a bottle of champagne and a dozen stone-crab claws. (Added incentive for nesting this year: Cupid’s arrow falls on a Wednesday, smack dab in the middle of the workweek.) But those who want adventure and scenery can take their chances on the town. Reservations are essential, and top spots typically fill up fast. Here are 14 suggestions for the mother of all date nights.
Bubbles and Pearls, 2037 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors; 954-533-9553, BubblesNPearls.com — Nothing says romance like a freshly shucked oyster and a freshly popped bottle of champagne, and this cramped and charming eatery has an abundance of both. The restaurant typically features oysters from East and West coasts, along with an affordable range of sparkling wines from South America, Spain, Italy and France. Chef Josie Smith-Malave and Marcy Miller, a newlywed couple, run this joyous bistro where other offerings include bone marrow and roasted mussels.
Etaru, 111 S. Surf Road, Hallandale Beach; 954-271-3222, EtaruRestaurant.us — This beachfront Japanese robatayaki restaurant behind the Hyde Resort features charcoal-grilled meats and pristine seafood and is stretching out its Valentine’s celebration with a weeklong food and film festival Feb. 9-14. Romantic dinners will follow or precede screenings of classic love stories such as “Pretty Woman” (Feb. 9) and “Chocolat” (Feb. 12). The menu includes a glass of Veuve Clicquot rose champagne followed by spicy mixed sashimi salad with smoked tomato or a sashimi selection to share. Second course is king-crab salad and black-cod gyoza. The main course is Wagyu short rib and Japanese mushroom hotpot. A dessert platter caps the meal. Dinner comes after the 7 p.m. screening or before the 9:30 p.m. screening. The cost is $150 per couple, plus tax and tip.
Le Bistro, 4626 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point; 954-946-9240, LeBistroRestaurant.com — French cuisine and Valentine’s Day go together like cafe au lait and croissants. This cozy restaurant run by Elin and Andy Trousdale will be in full Parisian romance mode with an $85-per-person special menu featuring bread board with spreads, charcuterie and seafood platter, choice of mushroom soup or winter salad, champagne sorbet, choice of filet mignon with truffle butter, rack of lamb or roasted lobster thermidor and dessert platter.
NYY Steak, 5540 NW 40th St., Coconut Creek; 954-935-6699, NYY-Steak.com — For couples who like red meat, this upscale steakhouse at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek will offer a special menu for $250 per couple (plus tax and tip) from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. The special includes a bottle of Taittinger Brut Champagne, an amuse-bouche, lobster bisque or heirloom tomato salad, chateaubriand for two and chocolate crunch bar for dessert. The restaurant will also serve its usual menu.
Terra Mare, 551 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-414-5160, TerraMareFl.com — The oceanfront dining room at this global restaurant at the new Conrad Beach resort is chic and minimalist, with backlit blue agate along a wall and creative plates coming from Swedish-born chef Johan Svensson. Svensson is creating a special set menu for Valentine’s Day ($85 per person, excluding tax, tip and drinks) with options including tuna crudo, foie gras torchon, beef carpaccio, seared scallops, beef Wellington, and the Terra Mare plate featuring braised short ribs and a half lobster tail. White chocolate mousse is among the desserts.
Boulud Sud, 255 Biscayne Blvd. Way, Miami; 305-421-8800, BouludSud.com— Famed French chef Daniel Boulud has revamped the former DB Bistro Moderne with an accent on lighter fare from the Mediterranean. The restaurant, which opened in January 2018 at the JW Marriott Marquis, has menu influences from Northern Africa, Turkey and Lebanon. Valentine’s Day features a four-course dinner ($85 per person, plus tax, tip and optional $50 per person wine pairing supplement) from executive chef Clark Bowen. Choices include fresh burrata with black truffle, saffron seafood risotto, Catalan filet mignon, chicken tagine for two and the signature grapefruit givre dessert.
OA, 2000 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-587-2000, DOACantina.com — This Latin-Asian fusion restaurant from Arjun Waney (Zuma, Coya) will mark the occasion with a four-course $150 sharing menu for two. The meal includes starting options of traditional ceviche, oysters, Hokkaido sea urchin, toro and salmon tiradito and a second course of gyoza with foie gras and duck. Main-course selections include seafood rice with squid ink, dashi, mussels, octopus and crispy squid, and a Nikkei tenderloin with teriyaki, scallion and broccoli. Dessert features chocolate-raspberry fondant with vanilla-bean ice cream.
Scarpetta, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-674-4660, Fontainebleau.com/Scarpetta — This elegant, oceanfront dining room at the Fontainebleau resort from celebrity chef Scott Conant features sophisticated Italian cuisine. Prepare to swoon over his signature spaghetti with tomato and basil. The Valentine’s Day menu offers a five-course dinner for $150 per couple (plus tax and tip) and includes an amuse-bouche and beetroot tartare with goat cheese and walnut, creamy polenta with wild mushrooms, Conant’s famed spaghetti, beef tenderloin with king crab and asparagus and chocolate zeppoles with brandied cherries and cherry gelato for dessert.
Three, 50 NW 24th St., Suite 101, Miami; 305-748-4540, ThreeWynwood.com — This newcomer in hip and artsy Wynwood is from legendary South Florida chef Norman Van Aken, and the restaurant will offer a three-course dinner for the holiday ($75 per person, plus tax and tip). Choices include cracked conch chowder, steak tartare or bay scallops to start and main-course options of Dover sole with Romanesco, pork two ways (glazed belly and braised shoulder) and venison loin with braised veal cheeks. Optional supplements include California sturgeon caviar ($95 an ounce) and foie gras french toast ($20). Desserts include citrus flan tart or peanut opera cake.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Baciami, 1415 S. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach; 561-810-5662, BaciamiItaliano.com — “Baciami” means “kiss me” in Italian, an apt Valentine’s Day sentiment. This traditional restaurant run by a father-and-son duo (the Pellegrinos) will offer a special three-course menu ($65 per person, plus tax, tip and optional addons). Start with mixed chilled seafood (frutta di mare), stuffed mushrooms or grilled octopus and then choose from 11 entrees including four types of veal, filet mignon pizziola and grilled jumbo scallops. Desserts include cheesecake, tiramisu and chocolate-mousse cake.
Oceano Kitchen, 201 E. Ocean Ave., Lantana; 561-562-5055, OceanoKitchen.com — I am smitten with the delicious plates that come from the husband-and-wife team of Jeremy and Cindy Bearman at this small, food-driven restaurant, which recently marked its first anniversary. Availability remains early (5 and 5:30 p.m.) and late (8:30 and 9 p.m.) for Valentine’s Day, when the usual no-reservations policy is scrapped. The special five-course menu costs $79 per person (plus tax, tip, drinks and optional $35 truffle supplement) and includes chilled tomato soup, roasted lobster and carrot salad, cauliflower and hazelnut risotto, 36-hour beef brisket and chocolate passionfruit cake. Most seating is alfresco (covered patio), but there are heat lamps and plastic roll-down curtains for chilly nights.
Pistache, 101 N. Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-833-5090, PistacheWPB.com — This cozy, decade-old French bistro in downtown West Palm Beach will offer a three-course menu for $78 per person (plus tax and tip). Choose from eight starters, including salads, escargot, octopus or salmon tartare, and from seven entrees, including beef bourguignon, duck breast with braised cabbage, sea bass with spaghetti squash and Brussels sprouts or pan-roasted chicken with truffle jus. Finish with one of six classic desserts, including creme brulee, chocolate mousse or berry tart.
Prezzo, 5560 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton; 561-314-6840, PrezzoBoca.com — The recent rebirth of this Italian restaurant helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Mark Militello has been getting good buzz. Early and late availability remains for Valentine’s Day, when holiday specials will be offered along with the regular menu. Antipasto platters, pastas and pizzas from the wood-burning oven are the featured attractions.
Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante, 3035 S. Federal Highway, Delray Beach; 561-332-3406, SardiniaRistorante.com — If you can’t stand the Valentine’s Day crowds, how about celebrating a day later? This Italian restaurant, which features cuisine from the island of Sardinia and recently arrived in Delray Beach, will offer its four-course holiday dinner ($95 per person, plus tax and tip) on Feb. 14 and Feb. 15. The regular menu will also be available both nights. Starters include salmon, tuna or beef tartare. Then, comes a pasta course of spaghetti with lobster or fettuccine with veal shank. Mains include jumbo shrimp or veal chop, and the meal finishes with panna cotta or chocolate cake.