The place: Ilili
The scoop: It’s no secret that we’d hop a plane
New Yorkers are a selective bunch. Rarely will we “settle” – on the food, entertainment or relationship front. Especially the relationship front. And why should we? Our options are endless. But if we’re lucky, someone piques our interest enough to conjure a desire to woo and impress. So in honor of Valentine's Day, and dating in general, we asked NYC’s most eligible bachelors to share their favorite date spots. They skipped the formal French experience, grand tasting menus of the Upper East Side and anywhere you might feel second class for ordering a moderately priced bottle of wine. Their requirements? A solid menu, a noise level that allows you to whisper sweet nothings across the table and flattering mood lighting. So pick a spot, play your cards right and this romance might just extend well beyond Valentine’s Day.
The place: The Musket Room, Nolita
The scene: With its white, rustic, exposed brick walls, teal leather banquettes and bare, un-clothed tables, the vibe at the Musket Room is fresh and modern, yet cozy. Good-looking downtown couples dine on unique, artistic culinary creations.
The menu: We’re normally skeptical of Michelin-starred spots as over-hyped and overly formal, but the Musket Room merges mind-blowing cuisine with a cool, low-key atmosphere. The focus is New Zealand cuisine, and we can comfortably say you won’t find one dish on the menu anywhere else in New York. Edible flowers garnish mushroom custard with black truffles. Gnocchi takes an unusual turn with tofu. And New Zealand red deer is enhanced with the flavor of gin. Really into your date? Opt for the ten-course tasting menu.
The place: Montmartre, Chelsea
The scene: A quintessential French bistro deep in Chelsea, it doesn’t get more romantic than Montmartre. It’s no secret that we're huge fans of the Little Wisco group. When they go for it, they really go for it. We’d be hard-pressed to find a bistro in Paris that is as French as Montmartre. It’s all about the details – from a high-brow presentation of a Campari and grapefruit with homemade bitters served on a silver tray to the flawless service that makes you feel like a regular. And a regular you will be.
The menu: Old school, authentic French; the menu is a throwback to classic French dishes that would make Julia Child proud. Think escargot, French onion gratinee and – our favorite – the brandade, a whipped cod, whose most recent incarnation was in a tartine with jambon de Paris, served with pommes frites. And as with any respectable French bistro, there are plenty of oysters and an extensive selection of French cheese.
The place: Apizz, Lower East Side
The scene: This insider classic Italian trattoria on the Lower East Side has all the makings for a home-run date. Once the candles are lit, a bottle of Italian Brunello is poured and the smell of roasted meats, and pizza and pesce arrosto waft from the wood-burning brick oven, the scene is set. The rest is up to you.
The menu: The food inspires you to share. We suggest starting with the oven-roasted mushrooms with polenta, moving onto the veal Bolognese (prime Lady and the Tramp opportunity) and ending with the oven-seared prime rib eye steak.
The place: Sorella, Chinatown
The scene: Combine edgy confidence, a lack of pretense and the inside scoop on what’s too cool for school, and you have yourself date night at Sorella. Located on a gritty Chinatown block, where you’re far more likely to find dumplings than multi-course bites of texturized and flavorful riffs on traditional Italian, Sorella will definitely become a staple in your restaurant repertoire. The front of the restaurant is a wine bar, with large communal tables and a ceiling that looks like the inside of a wine barrel. The dining room is minimalist, modern and chic, with tables a deux that channel a local trattoria vibe.
The menu: Sorella specializes in Northern Italian-inspired small plates. This is your opportunity to order copious amounts of food (sharing is caring), pair it with wine and settle in for long, engaging conversations. We love the classic agnolotti in celery root puree and braised oxtail, traditional truffles with egg pasta and the house-made ricotta gnudi.
The place: The Little Owl, West Village
The scene: A tiny boîte of a restaurant with just 28 seats, the Little Owl is a beloved West Village gathering place. By day, it’s a casual brunch and lunch spot, but by night, the candles are lit and it transforms into an optimal setting for date night. Like a healthy relationship, the Little Owl has staying power, with a strong foundation of food, welcoming service and quaint downtown atmosphere. From neighborhood locales to out-of-towners to the celebrity set, Little Owl is a go-to restaurant for any occasion, any night of the week.
The menu: Cozy, hearty food for a warm winter date. This is American cooking at its best, starring market ingredients that shine with intense and decisive flavors. The menu changes with the seasons, but the gravy meatball sliders (the gravy is a traditional tomato sauce) have long been a staple on the menu. The whole roasted fish was served, on a recent visit, over lobster risotto, and the NY steak with creamed kale pretty much rocked our world.
(Montmartre photo courtesy of Montmartre)