One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. — Virginia Woolf
Romance and fine dining are inextricably linked. Even the expression “wine and dine,” commonly used to refer to romancing a love interest, suggests that lavishing your sweetheart with good food and drink is key to winning and keeping their heart. After all, a thoughtfully prepared meal shared in a beautiful, intimate setting stimulates the senses and creates a mood for continued romance.
Los Angeles may not be Paris, but we’re a show-business town and we know how to set the stage for love. From seductive seafood at Asanebo to lush pastas and live jazz at Vitello’s, you won’t need to board a flight to Europe to properly wine and dine your valentine this February 14 and beyond. To whet your appetite for a romantic rendezvous, we’ve highlighted eight dreamy date-night restaurants in and around Toluca Lake.
A Girasol – Studio CityTop
Love is in the air, and it is literally embedded in the concept, architecture and food preparation at Girasol. With a name meaning “sunflower” in multiple languages, this warm and inviting restaurant was designed by its owner and a world-renowned architect to resemble the beautiful flower. The menu combines the avant-garde with the rustic, changing seasonally based on sustainable California ingredients such as farm-fresh produce and locally foraged herbs and berries. A few dishes remain year-round — like the whole red snapper from New Zealand, and the meatballs described by one customer as “touched by God.” So what makes Girasol romantic? The combination of unique décor, pleasant ambiance and extraordinary cuisine that enhances the expression of love.
[Editor’s note: Unfortunately, Girasol has closed since this article was originally published. ]
Cascabel, an upscale, modern Mexican restaurant, is located in a uniquely intimate setting, a 1920s Spanish villa. Adding to its intimate feel is the fact that it is hidden from street view and cozy, with only 74 seats. For Valentine’s Day, diners may order off the regular menu, featuring popular dishes like lobster tacos, Mexican cornbread with braised short ribs, smoked bacon guacamole, and spicy black bean enfrijolada made with braised short rib, plantains and goat cheese. “Cascabel offers a unique dining experience in a romantic setting for unusually delicious Mexican fare,” says general manager Mara Herbkersman of the rattlesnake-themed restaurante.
This open-air restaurant in the Garland Hotel offering seasonal comfort food is quintessential Los Angeles. We couldn’t have put it better than Food and Beverage Director Oliver Goldsmith: “Set under towering sycamore trees and twinkling lights with a nice outdoor patio for al fresco dining, couples can come for a drink at the bar or stay for the night and enjoy a delicious dinner under the stars.” Don’t miss the decadent yet rustic grilled octopus, consisting of green mussels, feta cheese, heirloom tomatoes and mixed herbs. Other popular dishes include the tagliatelle Bolognese and braised short rib.
What better way to romance your sweetheart than to feast together on seafood, a well-known aphrodisiac? Asanebo has been recognized as a top U.S. Japanese restaurant by Zagat and the L.A. Times, and has also been awarded a Michelin star in 2008 and 2009. Special Valentine’s Day chefs’ courses will be offered by Japanese chef-owners Tetsuya and Shunji Nakao, brothers from Yokohama. Popular dishes include halibut truffle, tai sashimi and sea bass butter truffle. When asked what makes Asanebo romantic, management’s response reflects the service-oriented Japanese culture: “We don’t dim the lights or put candles on the table; however, what makes us unique is the experience we provide to the guest in terms of service.”
Vitello’s has been a beloved neighborhood institution since it opened its doors in 1964. There are four settings to please any lover’s taste: Vitello’s, the contemporary Italian restaurant; Upstairs at Vitello’s, a live entertainment supper club; The Rendition Room, a post-Prohibition speakeasy; and a recent addition, The Loft Whiskey Lounge, offering house barrel-aged craft cocktails. Customer favorites include classic pastas, Parmigianas, Marsalas, fresh fish, chops and steaks. World-class live music will delight your date from appetizer to dessert. You may recognize jazz vocalist and pianist Angela Parrish from the soundtrack of the recent film La La Land, a celebrated love letter to Los Angeles.
Begin or top off your night sipping martinis in the candlelit Library Lounge inside Hotel Amarano in the heart of Burbank. A Valentine’s Day prix fixe menu will be offered at the lounge as well as in Privato, the hotel’s intimate private dining space with both al fresco and indoor dining. The special menu for February 14 features appetizer, entrée and dessert courses, with options including smoked tomato and Gouda soup, mushroom risotto with prawns and seasonal vegetables, and cheesecake with berries and raspberry coulis. Library Lounge is open year-round, serving up popular dishes such as coconut shrimp with orange sweet chili sauce and ahi tuna poke.
Take your sweetheart to Italy with a visit to Prosecco, where husband-and-wife owners Eric and Amy Fishburn have created an authentic experience by importing everything from the marble floors to the granite countertops and artwork. The regular menu will be offered on Valentine’s Day, including favorites like lamb ragù with fresh pappardelle pasta, spicy arrabiata, homemade raviolis, wild whitefish piccata, and grilled shrimp with creamy Parmesan polenta. End your meal with house-made sweets for your sweet, featuring chocolate truffles and panettone bread pudding. It’s evident that Prosecco is a labor of love. As Amy says, “We are truly the Prosecco family welcoming you to our home.”
Cozy up to your date at this intimate, 30-seat restaurant featuring globally inspired small plates. You can pair your dishes with a thoughtfully curated wine list that features bottles from France, New Zealand, Argentina and Italy, and a chef’s special prix fixe menu will be offered on Valentine’s Day. Throughout the year, items change according to season, though popular regular items remain, including octopus and Brussels sprouts, shrimp dumplings, steamed mussels and lamb chops. When asked what makes Commonwealth perfect for date night, co-owner Ryotaro Isobe says, “Dim lighting and rustic decor with candles makes the atmosphere perfect for sipping on wine and pairing with our small plates.”
Don’t forget the flowers! Want to wow your date with a beautiful bouquet? Check out our roundup of local florists.