All Kinds Of Romantic Places For Valentine’s

I was thinking of writing about Valentine’s Day from a food perspective when it occurred to me that there are so many different ways to eat nowadays and so many types of dining experiences, it’s nearly impossible to guarantee a one-size-fits-all romantic evening anymore.


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Amuse bouche at Azure. Jo McGarry photos

Food follows trends, much like fashion does. You only have to look at the way we eat today compared to how we were eating 20 years ago to see that nothing stays the same.

Today, we’re asking for smaller plates, tasting menus, dishes that wow with their artistic presentation and delicate appeal.

Years ago, an entrée, vegetable and starch all on one plate with an appetizer served before and dessert afterward was standard restaurant fare.

Today, family-style dining is the norm, and as new restaurants open, the menu focus is often on sharing.

In the case of TASTE at Kakaako, the sharing extends beyond the plate and into the actual restaurant space; one night TASTE may be Mexican, another it may have morphed back into Andrew Le’s The Pig and The Lady. And the other thing about recommending romantic restaurants is that, for most people, romance isn’t just about the food. There are views to consider, service, décor, wine lists and entertainment.

And that’s even before you consider the type of food considered romantic.

Some places are utterly romantic by nature of geography. Michel’s, La Mer and Orchids immediately come to mind, along with similarly stunning views from Sarento’s, Sonz on Maui and at Sarento’s on the Beach, which leads one to deduce that restaurateur Aaron Placourackis (who owns all three) certainly knows how to pick a romantic spot.

And while Duc’s Bistro in Chinatown doesn’t have an ocean view, one could make a case that its chocolate cake with good after-dinner conversation is as romantic as an evening gets.

For everyday romance, it’s hard to beat Ruth’s Chris Steak House at Restaurant Row; the team there has identified what local diners want: great value, good steak, fresh fish and a ton of little extras, from flower petals on the table to off-the-menu desserts, meant only for those who are celebrating something special.

Thinking of making a reservation for Valentine’s Day?

Let me give you the number so you can call ahead for next year. This year there are already extra tables at the bar and seats set up outside to cope with those who’ve booked for their Feb. 14 steaks and lobsters.

If I had to choose just one romantic bite of food I’d be inclined toward something created by Chef Vikram Garg at Halekulani.

Especially if it’s being served at Table One, his chef’s table. He creates menus dependant on market availability, and he takes inspiration from whatever’s in season. Memorable, stunning, incredible in its presentation, Garg’s food is really a joy to eat, even in tiny bites.

Again, don’t hold your breath for a Valentine’s night table, but keep it in mind when you have something really special to celebrate.

And don’t worry if you forgot to make a reservation for this, the busiest night of the year. Lots of restaurants will run Valentine’s specials throughout the week.

I will catch some of them long after the madness of the night is forgotten, because in the home of a food writer, Valentine’s night is the evening to stay home.

Although apparently that’s not exactly the norm. Last year on Feb. 14, amid picking up the boys from practice and the general hustle of family life, we decided to call for pizza. My husband ordered it with his usual attention to detail, asking for a double order of anchovies and a crisp, not-burned crust. When he went to pick it up, the guy at the counter hadn’t even bothered to make it.

“We thought it was a joke,” he said, looking askance at Bobby. “I mean, who’d order an anchovy pizza on Valentine’s Day?”

Happy eating!