10 Valentine’s Date Places
We know that Valentine’s Day can be a cliché with its red roses, boxes of chocolates and overpriced meals, and yes, it’s not for everyone. But for a majority, it’s a holiday where lovers can vocalize and demonstrate how much their loved ones mean to them. If you are the type who enjoys celebrating the Day of Hearts (or perhaps your partner likes the attention!), then go over the top and take him or her to a restaurant where the food is fine and the wine sublime. In no particular order, here’s my top 10 list of suggestions on where to spend your V-Day. Enjoy!
For destination dining only two hours away from Manila, Chef Tonyboy Escalante’s Antonio’s is truly my number one choice for romantic dining. With its consistently delicious food, old-world charm, classy interiors and beautiful lanai, Antonio’s is perfect for wedding receptions and has once again been chosen as San Pellegrino & Acqua Panna’s 50 Best Restaurants in Asia. Surprise your love one with this out of town trip and don’t forget to dress especially for the occasion.
Wunderkind Chef Josh Boutwood
I recently had the pleasure of a wonderful meal at The Test Kitchen with an intimate group of friends. Run by award-winning Chef Josh Boutwood of The Bistro Group, who last year won several awards at the Food & Hotel Asia 2016 trade show held in Singapore, The Test Kitchen is where he holds court, offering new and exciting degustation dinners every day. Bring your date here for a one-of-a-kind Valentine date that they will never forget. There are two communal tables with only twenty-two seats available for guests, so make sure you reserve in advance. All dishes put an emphasis on quality of ingredients and superb technique, giving you a lovely combination of flavor and texture all in one bite.
Interiors of Mireio
Have you been lucky enough to visit Provence? With its richly scented lavender fields, quaint cobblestoned villages and drawn-out rustic meals of fresh seafood, quality meats and produce fueled with lots of inexpensive local rose, Provence is truly the stuff of dreams that artists Paul Cezanne, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso and many others tried to capture on canvas. Dining at Mireio (pronounced Mee-reyo) comes close. This French bistro features murals splashed on the walls and picture windows that show diners sweeping views of Makati. The food is sublime with lots of fresh seafood on the menu, including a choice of two tartares. Lunch dates here are bright and airy while dinner dates are more subdued –don’t forget to go outside to enjoy a drink or two on the outdoor terrace.
Jamon to your heart’s content
Another hidden gem of a restaurant, Txanton offers you jamon degustation and other Spanish delicacies that pairs with a variety of their superb wines that are also for sale. Two communal tables are set beside bottles and bottles of premium wine, giving you the feeling its owner decided to pop open a few of his best bottles for your private tasting.
Grilled octopus served with okra and prawn broth
5. Toyo Eatery
For those who love Fiipino food but want to try something extraordinary for the holiday, make a reservation for two on Valentine’s at Chef Jordy Navarra’s Toyo Eatery, which showcases Filipino food as global cuisine. Unlike the usual fiesta-style boodle fights you might see on Instagram, Chef Jordy’s take is elegant and sophisticated, revealing his training with Chef Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck.
The hip and stylish Japanese-Peruvian restaurant of Chef Nobu Matsuhisa first opened its doors in New York City in 1994. Since then it has branched out not only around the US but also all over the globe to key cities in Mexico, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Manila is privy to his style of omakase and this Valentine’s, Nobu Manila offers a 7-course omakase for around Php4200 per person which includes the chef’s famous Yellowtail Jalapeno with Oyster and Caviar, Salmon Sashimi Salad and Beef Tenderloin with Uni Butter. Each guest will also get a free Nobu Manila Sweet Masu Box with petit fours.
Canadian Nova Scotia lobster
Paying homage to the good old butcher with his cuts and prime meat is Smith & Butcher Grill Room. If you and your date are into enjoying classic dishes such as French onion soup, wedge salad, oysters on the half shell and well of course, a really nicely done steak, this is the place for you. Chef Tom Hines is into nose to tail butchery, leaving no piece of meat left behind. Its industrial interiors with an open kitchen concept make this steak house modern and fun. My favorite was the Canadian Nova Scotia lobster that I paired with half a Snake River Farms rib eye, cooked medium rare. Choose from a variety of grass- or corn-fed imported meats, dry aged or wet aged. Dining here is a little on the pricey side, but you get what you pay for.
If lunch is more your speed for a memorable Valentine’s date, try the modern meets traditional approach to Cantonese cuisine at Canton Road at Shangri-La at the Fort. The bright and airy interiors feature a touch of celadon hued patterns and silk panels, making it feel modern. Try any of their signature dim sum dishes or roasted barbecued meats. I enjoy the inventiveness of some of their choices as well as their vast assortment of teas poured the traditional way.
Charcuterie platter for a private sit-down dinner
Perhaps you don’t feel like eating at a restaurant? Then gather a few of your best friends and their dates and have Chef Happy Ongpauco-Tiu cater you all an unforgettable meal (if she’s available!). Her more is more type of entertaining will have you eating anything from Filipino lechon to roasted herbed bone marrow to paella Valenciana – choose from any of her six cuisines! Her gorgeous table settings will make you feel the spirit of the holiday even more.
Photo courtesy of Holy Carabao
10. Cook a romantic meal at home with fresh produce from Holy Carabao
Last but not the least, why not skip the fuss and traffic and instead make a home-cooked meal together? Buy all the ingredients from Holy Carabao that not only offers delicious meat and produce but also chooses to be kind to the environment (not to mention the animals!). You can order whole chickens or select pieces together with a box of organically grown vegetables and even dairy products. This leaves more time for Netflix and chilling.
Whether you’re staying in or heading out on February 14, what matters is you spend the day in a special way with people who make your heart smile! Happy Valentine’s Day! ♥