Between hard-to-get reservations and cramped restaurants with pricey prix fixe menus, dining out on Valentine’s Day can get inconvenient and quickly shatter that romantic mood. Gotham chatted up some of New York’s best chefs about the dishes they cook to impress their loved ones. The takeaway? Comforting meals trump complex ones and—most of all—it’s about your Valentine.
Pan-searing red sea bass over braised Moroccan-spiced chickpeas served with pickled chioggia beet slaw doesn’t require going to culinary school, according to chef Christopher Reid of Oleanders. Besides making sure you use a small amount of oil to sear the skin side first, Reid adds, “Valentine’s Day is about love, and I believe any dish that is prepared with love will ‘most of the time’ be a success.”
“I like to get dirty for Valentine’s Day (if I'm not working) and have always been a huge fan of eating with your hands,” says chef Anthony Sasso. True to his focus on small plates, Sasso’s menu would be filled with shareable dishes like mussels steamed with cava and a box of chocolates served with oranges.
Alex McCrery, a former chef-turned-designer of Tilit NYC (which makes some of the most stylish aprons and chef-inspired garments), keeps it simple for the romantic holiday. A roasted chicken served with vegetables is “rustic and shows your Valentine how skilled you are at preparing a classic home-cooked meal really well.”
Benoit’s executive chef Laetitia Rouabah recommends a riff for an item on the resto’s Valentine’s Day menu: marinated sea scallops with raw cauliflower. The trick to creating this delicate dish? Slicing the fresh scallops thinly and marinating them for five minutes in olive oil, lime, and lemon for a simple, clean presentation.
While his Sicilian couscous with shellfish ragout is a popular dish at The Leopard at des Artistes and Il Gattopardo, executive chef Vito Gnazzo says it’s perfect for Valentines because “it makes the perfect romantic dish for two!” To combine the Italian and north African flavors of this dish, Gnazzo uses fresh couscous and a variety of seafood that mingles with a pesto made from garlic, shallots, and anchovies.
From handmade pastas to wood-fired pizzas, Albert Di Meglio’s menu at Barano is full of comforting dishes you’d eat anytime of the year. For Valentine’s Day, De Meglio suggests cooking a seafood risotto teeming with shrimp, clams, mussels, lobsters, and oysters. “This recipe will take 20-25 minutes start to finish, leaving you with the rest of the night to get close to your special someone, not to mention the aphrodisiac properties of the seafood,” he says.
“When I'm at home cooking for my wife for Valentine's Day, or any special occasion, I always try and make dishes that are her favorites,” says Josh Laurano of La Sirena. A dinner with oysters, a bone-in New York strip steak, and roasted veggies sticks to Laurano’s tip that your menu should be simple but thoughtful.
A steak dinner can impress many Valentine dates, says Suvir Saran, who recommends a steak au poivre topped with a creme fraiche cognac sauce paired with a side of roasted potatoes. Go ahead and splurge on a pristine cut of Wagyu A5 beef for the special occasion.