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by Eric A.T. Dieckman
Food. Its aphrodisiac qualities are limitless. If that weren’t true, why would so many dates begin with dinner? Valentine’s Day is the pinnacle of such goings-on. To ease your romance planning, here’s an overview of a few places—some new-ish, some old favorites—that may make your special night all the more special.
Noche Cocina y Bar
2409 Montrose Blvd. • 713/529-8559
Feel like Mexican but would rather something more adventurous than typical Tex-Mex? This is your place. A hot spot for maragaritaphiles, Noche also serves excellent dishes to accompany the cocktails. The kitchen is always open to suggestions, so if crawfish enchiladas are not on the menu, just ask. With so many delights on the menu already, you won’t need to order off the menu. The Gulf snapper boat could not be juicier. The chicken pibil offers tropical flair, with moist chicken wrapped in a banana leaves.
Osaka Japanese Restaurant
515 Westheimer • 713/533-9098
Seriously, the quality is difficult to beat. Sushi lovers have commented that the fatty tuna here is unmatched. With outgoing staff and management and a heart-of-the-Montrose locale, how can you go wrong? While the surroundings are chic, Osaka is not packed to the gills with annoyingly trendy automatons. For dessert, try the green tea, red bean, or mango ice creams. They’re a refreshing delight.
Pepino’s Italian Restaurant
1421 Richmond • 713/522-9044
Since Pepino’s is located next door to Michael’s Outpost bar, you could spend a full evening’s worth of activity here without parking more than once. Chef Pepe encourages diners to bring their own wine to accompany their meal, be it osso bucco, risotto, or a juicy filet mignon.
Ragazza Italian Bar & Grill
920 Studemont • 713/864-3700 • www.ragazzahouston.com
Formerly Rivendell, the place now offers upscale Italian dining. With ultra-high ceilings and lots of space between tables, Ragazza feels anything but cramped. For those who would rather just have a wine and maybe some hors d’oeuvre (try the stuffed mushrooms), a few love seats assembled in a corner near a grand piano encourage cozy lounging.
Riva’s Italian Restaurant
1117 Missouri • 713/529-3450
Lovers of Southern Italian fare will find joy in the endless supply of garlic bread, not to mention the veal and pastas galore set amidst lush tropical surroundings. Just a little peckish? The house salad comes well recommended by regulars.
250 W 19th St. • 713/863-7500 • www.shadeheights.com
In Kaldi Café’s old spot in the Heights, Shade Café offers a stylish modern minimalist feel that really stands out. Despite its upscale menu and surroundings, the place is casual-friendly. Prices are midrange ($11.50–$25.50) but the value is high for those looking to satisfy sophisticated palates. The menu offers savory fascinations like mushroom phyllo strudel, roasted couscous stuffed tomato, and pecan-crusted confit of duck leg. Pop in for coffee and dessert. The strong cappuccino goes well with the chocolate cherry croissant bread pudding and dollop of vanilla bean ice cream.
415 Westheimer • 713/527-0609 • www.sorrentohouston.com
Abbas Husseim, formerly of Michelangelo’s, has opened this tranquil, candle-lit Italian spot on lower Westheimer. Specialties include veal osso buco, cioppino seafood soup, and an array of rich pasta dishes. For a Valentine’s dessert, perch at the semicircular bar with your beloved and share a chocolate truffle terrine with walnut whipped cream, Sambuca sauce, and white chocolate espresso bark.
Tila’s Restaurante & Bar
1111 S. Shepherd • 713/522-7654
Tex-Mex with pizzazz. Traditionalists and culinary adventurists can both find satisfaction here. Standards like chili rellenos are countered by spicy pork tenderloin medallions with basil-mint pesto. After the meal, the spicy-sweetness of ancho-fudge pie will surprise you. On February 14, Tila’s will offer a three-course-meal-with-champagne special.