From the Stomach to the Heart

Depending on your relationship status and role, Valentine’s Day may be your day to be spoiled, or may present a daunting challenge. So here’s a list of restaurants that should cover many potential date scenarios for good old St. Valentine’s Day (or other big nights), and which offer reservations (crucial). May yours be memorable, appropriately romantic, and drama-free.

When a Valentine’s Day to remember is in order-Rialto
Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, why not take advantage of the non-school night and go out for an extravagant dinner that’s sure to impress even the must discerning of palates. Take your sweetheart to Rialto, located conveniently right across the river in the Charles Hotel.

Now coming off Hell Week, most of you probably think of painful consulting interviews and dinners and cringe when someone mentions the Charles Hotel or Rialto. However, Rialto has much more to offer when dining with the exceedingly more pleasant company of your significant other.

Rialto is arguably the best of fine dining that Harvard Square has to offer, featuring the James Beard award winning regional Italian cuisine of chef and owner Jody Adams. The menu changes seasonally to present the freshest of ingredients and there is a choice of both a prix fixe menu consisting of 3 to 4 courses or the option to dine a la carte.

For Valentine’s day, there is a prix fixe 4 course menu for $75. The menu starts with a Main Lobster Salad, followed by a Duck Ravioli, and an entrée of Roasted Tenderloin and Beef Short Ribs. For dessert there is a Chocolate Raspberry Cake with Raspberry Sorbet.

For those wanting to design their own “prix fixe,” the regular dinner menu is also available.

For the first course, popular dishes include the “Woodbury’s grilled littlenecks…andouille, toasted garlic bread” – put it simply: clams + chorizo = always a good combination. Another great choice is the “Tuna crudo…celery root, kumquat, blood orange” which offers an interesting taste combination, sweet and tart with a slight acidity.

Second course offerings include the popular “Fisherman’s soup…rouille, GruyŠre, basil oil” and “Lasagna…rabbit, sweetbreads, parmesan” for the more culinary adventurous.

For Entrees, I recommend the “Grilled Berkshire pork tenderloin and braised cheek…almonds, citrus, sweet potatoes” and the “Sea scallops…squash ravioli, chanterelles, smoked bacon.”

As a side note, Rialto is also currently offering a 3 course Prix-Fixe Winter Menu for $40 which offers your choice of one starter, entrée and dessert from a limited selection of the dinner menu. Additionally, there is a 4-course Regional Cuisine Prix-Fixe for $60 that changes seasonally.

As you can see, a dinner for two at Rialto can easily run close to $200 when you factor in wine and cocktails making this a great Valentine’s day spot for a committed couple, but may prove overwhelming and scream “tries too hard” if chosen as a first-date spot.

Rialto, One Bennett Street (Inside the Charles Hotel) Harvard Square
Cambridge, MA 02138,
(617) 661-5050
Dining room hours:
Monday – Friday: 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm, Saturday: 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm
ÿSunday: 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Low-key V-Day, please – La Creperie (Arrow Street Crepes)
For those wanting a casual and comfy Valentine’s day, takeout or delivery (via from La Creperie + a movie = ultimate cuddle time with your honey.

La Creperie offers a wide array of crepes both savory and sweet that will satisfy vegetarians and meat-lovers alike.

Savory favorites include vegetarian offerings like the Eiffel Tower – mozzarella, spinach, eggs, tomatoes, onion and hot sauce and the Monaco – spiced pears, Roquefort cheese, toasted walnuts and mesclun honey salad.

For non-vegetarians, offerings range from the classic Parisien – garlic butter, mozzarella, bacon and caramelized onions to more exotic choices like Braised Lamb and Spicy Chicken Salad.

For dessert – Nothing beats Nutella or Belgian Chocolate smothered crepes. Add strawberries (Carnivale) or bananas (Amelie) or for Valentine’s Day go over the top with the Sweet Crepe Ridiculous – twin Belgian chocolate (white and dark), strawberries, Oreo cookie crumble, whip cream and chocolate drizzle. For non chocolate lovers (who are you?), the simplicity of the Lulu – fresh strawberries caramelized with lemon and sugar is always a winner.

La Creperie/Arrow Street Crepes
1154 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138

Valentine’s Day Brunch – the ultimate non-date-Hei La Moon
Perhaps you’ve scheduled some solo hang out time for Saturday, February 14th. You’ve even specified brunch to keep it casual. Surprise- it’s Valentine’s Day. When you need a super casual, fun and non-awkward destination, Chinatown is your best friend. Cheap and easy yet adventurous and lively- the perfect date (double entendre intended).

Hei La Moon is a bustling, if not chaotic, dining experience. It is absolutely full to the gills every weekend day from late morning to mid-afternoon with (predominantly Chinese) brunchers in search of Boston’s finest dim sum. Tapas-sized plates parade about through the dining room on carts and tables select their hearts desires as the carts pass them by. Valentine’s Day or not, it’s worth a visit to fill your belly with what some would consider to be the perfect hangover food. Must eats: steamed sweet pork in fluffy white buns (cha shau bau), rice noodle rolls (shrimp and beef varieties), shau mai (pork and shrimp wrapped in tofu skin), all varieties of dumplings, egg tarts- all perennial favorites. For the exotic dim sum diner, you can earn your stripes with chicken feet.

Overall, Hei La Moon is probably the most legitimate version of this Cantonese cuisine here in Boston. If you haven’t had dim sum yet, it’s a unique dining experience. And if you have and love it, Hei La Moon will offer you some decent fare in a city that is generally limited in its offerings of Chinese cuisines. At the very least, your “date” will appreciate a change from the run-of-the-mill pancake and eggs brunch. And you’ll toe the fine line of a rendezvous on the most romantic day of the year- keeping it cool and easy on the budget.

Hei La Moon
88 Beach Street, Boston, MA 02111
(617) 338-8813

Sweeping Views of Boston to Sweep Her Off Her Feet-Top of the Hub
There are no more stunning of views in Boston, hands down. Top of the Hub is arguably the most dramatic view of the Bostonian skyline around- making it the perfect end to an impressive evening. 52 floors above downtown Back Bay, Top of the Hub serves lunch and dinner and also offers a great ambiance for dessert and cocktails. It is accessed through the Prudential Center Mall and sitting atop many floors of offices, it regally beckons those in search of a romantic date. Dimly lit and tastefully sleek, make no mistake about it, a date at Top of the Hub does not qualify for low-key or casual. Dress up, get psyched, and prepare to enjoy the view.

Call ahead to find out whether the jazz band will be playing on your date night- most evenings, Top of the Hub hosts one of 3 jazz trios. Despite no cover charges, do note the minimum $24 charge in the lounge area after 8pm- these authors think it’s a worthy price to pay for the unparalleled view. Especially if your date has been banished to Allston since her arrival in Boston, the sights from Top of the Hub will indeed take her breath away. Valentine’s mission accomplished.

800 Boylston St # 52
Boston, MA 02199
(617) 536-1775

Restaurants to make all you relationship worries disappear, at least for a few courses
Here is a list of the Boston’s priciest dining splurges- guaranteed to serve up a memorably luxurious evening:

Located in the heart of Back Bay adjacent to the gorgeous new Mandarin Hotel, L’Espalier is a gourmande’s dream. Delicately prepared French- New England cuisine consistently keeps this establishment at the top of its game. Having relocated from its historic brownstone on a residential block in the neighborhood, L’Espalier’s new, sleekly refined decor has been updated to match its new home on Boylston Street. As with any proper French establishment, the sommelier here will not disappoint- this restaurant’s wine and cheese pairings are impeccable.
774 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02199, (617) 262-3023

No 9 Park
Nestled on a quiet block overlooking Boston Common, No 9 Park is a Barbara Lynch establishment featuring Italian and French cuisines in a modern setting. Ask for one of the two tables overlooking the Park- full of twinkling lights and snow this time of year. Service is of the highest caliber and food to relished, remembered, and noted for future special occasions.

9 Park St, Boston, MA 02108, (617) 742-9991

When it comes to luxury, leave it to the Four Seasons. Aujourd’hui is truly a dining tour de force and is the resident French powerhouse, requisite in every major city. With its opulent decor (think French tapestries and massive chandeliers), Aujourd’hui makes clear its intention- to spoil its diners silly, as long as they’re paying. A visit to Aujourd’hui delivers classic French cuisine- again in an ambiance to match its very high prices. Enjoy a meal here, and make it last.

200 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116, (617) 351-2037.

February 9, 2009
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