Critiques

Cancel your Valentine’s Day luxury dinner reservation

Want a tip that’s sure to impress your beloved on Valentine’s Day? Cancel the dinner reservation at that ultra-luxurious, buzzed-about restaurant that you worked so hard to secure. It’s not going to deliver what you hope in terms of true luxury, and there are better and more meaningful things to do! So say all of the sophisticated restaurant insiders that we’ve spoken to about this pressing matter. If you have a reservation, we suggest you cancel it. And if you don’t have one, don’t stress over it: there are many more luxurious things to do on Valentine’s Day – you can save that lovely dinner at a magical restaurant for some other day.

We asked our Food Editor to pen a piece for Dandelion Chandelier on the best restaurants for Valentine’s Day, and her response was “There is no such thing.” Here’s her inside view on what goes on at the best restaurants in the world on this particular holiday, and why you’d be well-advised to do something else that night. Here’s her (lightly edited) take:

I’m not sure about for you, but for me, February 14 seems to arrive more quickly every year. I used to worry about finding the perfect restaurant, and scoring the coveted 8:15p table for two, pulling my hair out as I was turned down by restaurant after packed restaurant. That was before I became friends with people who work in the restaurant industry (“the industry” for short).

It turns out that Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays (like Mother’s Day) when it’s better to avoid restaurants all together. Because restaurants know that couples will come in droves, expecting oysters, beef tenderloin, red wine, followed by a chocolate confection, that’s exactly what they deliver! They rearrange dining rooms to accommodate more “deuces” (restaurant parlance for a table for two, or a two-top) than on any other night, which translates to tables jammed together barely giving diners any privacy. And because there is so much demand, restaurants streamline the menus that they offer to ensure food flies out of the kitchen to maximize their turns (the number of reservations they can book per table). A typical restaurant might turn a table three times on a random Wednesday. But if February 14 falls on a Wednesday, as it does this year, that same restaurant will be shooting to turn that same table 5-6 times.

This may seem like it goes against the spirit of the holiday, but keep in mind that these cute, delicious restaurants are businesses. So, it’s really smart of them to make the most of the demand that this “Hallmark Holiday” creates.

If I sound like a jaded old curmudgeon incapable of being romantic, hear me out. Just because I don’t recommend going out to a restaurant on V Day, doesn’t mean that I don’t recommend being romantic on this lovers’ holiday. I love an excuse to surprise my wife with a special evening out or beautiful meal at home. So, my recommendation would be to move that dinner reservation to February 15th, or any other night, when the restaurant is back to its charming self, and read below for some non-restaurant focused Valentine’s Day suggestions.

Cook at home. Valentine’s Day is perfect for a warm and delicious meal at home. Pick up a tin of caviar to go with a split of Billecart Salmon brut rose. Then share a porterhouse steak accompanied by a bitter green salad with citrus, and end on a sweet note – perhaps a chocolate soufflé. The New York Times and Epicurious both have plenty of suggestions for creating the perfect romantic dinner at home if you need some ideas.

Hire a private chef. So, you love the idea of a romantic meal at home, but don’t cook? No problem. A quick google search reveals a plethora of private chefs in NYC and the surrounding areas who would be happy to do all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. This just leaves plenty of time to get lost in your special someone’s eyes without worry about burning the soufflé!

Explore a museum together. If you decide to make Valentine’s Day an all-day affair, there are plenty of museums that you could choose to explore, from the classics at the Met, to more modern options like MoMA or the Guggenheim, to the risqué Museum of Sex. Another option is book a private after-hours tour of The Museum of the City of New York ($100, or $85 for museum members) which concludes with a champagne toast under the beloved Starlight exhibit.

Book a couples’ massage. It’s hard to think of better way to unwind and connect with your better half than through a couples’ massage. The Spa at The Mandarin Oriental has a beautiful 650-square-foot couples massage suite with stunning views, private steam and rain shower, elevated private tub, side-by-side massage tables and a kang relaxation bed. Couples can customize their massage experiences, but all services conclude with a five element bento box served as couples relax on the kang bed.

Take a cooking class together. Cooking together can be a very romantic way to spend an evening. Just because you’re no Jacque Pepin doesn’t mean you can’t still cook a lovely meal with your Valentine. The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in Manhattan is offering a class on making the perfect cocktail. But there are plenty of other cooking schools offering classes on pizza-making, cooking fish, baking the perfect chocolate cake, or there’s even a class called Appetite for Seduction in the east village!

Take an art class. How about taking a pottery class with your better half? No? Think Ghost. But not really like that because there will be other people in the class and you probably won’t get to use the wheel in your first class. BUT, you will get your hands dirty creating a coffee mug or candy dish, and you can go back after your work of art dries to paint it! Baked in Brooklyn offers a line-up of different pottery classes. If clay isn’t your medium, The Art Studio NY offers a couples one-on-one painting class where sipping wine is encouraged.

Go to a show. Broadway has its normal schedule on February 14, so grab tickets to see any one of the excellent plays or musicals the usual way. If you want to go a little less traditional, grab tickets to see Filthy Gorgeous Burlesque Valentine’s Spectacular at the Highline Ballroom.

Chocolate and Champagne. If Netflix and chill is your idea of a perfect romantic evening with your partner, elevate the experience on February 14 by picking up a bottle of champagne and some chocolates from Jacques Torres. Everyone likes chocolate!

There you have it: a few immersive and interactive ways to fete your love without a meal at your dream restaurant. Happy Valentine’s Day! Save us a chocolate.

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