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Happy Valentines Day: Here are six restaurants that you might want to try out tonight

Show your true love that you are willing to fork out some cash for a nice, romantic dinner. Rather than getting your hands sticky at Redbones BBQ, check out the list below and reconsider your options. Some may be fully booked, but if you religiously stay by the telephone, you might pick up a last−minute cancellation. Market by

MARKET by Jean-Georges

For the swanky valentine

Boston Magazine listed Market as a top choice for the “Best of Boston” award for “blowout birthday parties” last year, and it’s obvious why: There’s chic furniture in a spacious layout, floor−to−ceiling windows and waiters clad in starched black button−downs. Its location in the W Hotel makes it an even bigger draw for the young, hipster crowd and 20−something executives.

As part of celebrity chef Jean−Georges Vongerichten’s massive restaurant empire, Market bears his signature classical French−meets−modern Asian cuisine and updates it for the 21st century connoisseur. The hackneyed American staple of tuna tartare, for example, is served with crisply shaved spicy radish, sweet avocado and based with an umami concoction of yuzu, ginger emulsion and sriracha chili oil.

Vongerichten employs the same Picasso−like approach with his four−course Valentine’s Day Weekend Tasting Menu, priced at $58 (unfortunately, the set menu does not include the tuna tartare, but try your luck at requesting one). Beet carpaccio and diver scallop sashimi are accompanied by a dose of wasabi, while striped bass, lightly crusted with nuts and seeds, is served atop a sweet−and−sour broth.

For the main course, there is a choice between soy−glazed short rib with apple−jalapeño puree, or a simple yet hearty parmesan−crusted organic chicken. Save room for dessert and opt for the 14−layer chocolate cake laced with, appropriately enough, passion fruit caramel. (100 Stuart St. between Tremont and Warrenton in Back Bay; 617−310−6790)

Al Fresco Ristorante

For the rustic valentine

There is nothing wrong with being a little rough around the edges in choosing a cozy alcove−like restaurant in Davis Square. Al Fresco, as the name suggests, serves up Italian food in an old−fashioned way and is considered by many contributors to business−review website to be a hidden gem in Somerville.

Sophomore Lai Hau Choi swears by its charming decor and generally moderate prices.

“The atmosphere for dining is pretty romantic and laidback, and the staff is very nice and tries to do their best,” Choi said. “I had the shrimp scampi, which was pretty tasty.”

Share a bowl of white−wine steamed mussels ($7.95) with your loved one, along with some crusty garlic bread ($3). For pastas, there is the shrimp scampi linguini with a lemon white wine sauce ($14.95), and for mains there are unique selections such as tortellini with prosciutto and rosé sauce ($10.95). If you’d like to re−enact the spaghetti scene from the animated Disney classic “Lady and the Tramp” (1955), Al Fresco offers its signature homemade meatballs, served with fresh−melted mozzarella over linguine.

Dessert selection is limited, but if you must round up their meal on a sweet note, there is always the classic New York−style cheesecake ($3.50). (382 Highland Ave. in Davis Square; 617−776−8100)

Top of the Hub

For the ultimate valentine

Getting a table by the window, let alone a table, at this restaurant is harder to score than an A on an Economics 5 midterm. Top of the Hub is the highest restaurant in Boston, situated at the 52nd story of the Prudential Building. The prices, too, are sky−high. You and your valentine can enjoy the $250 four−course prix fixe, but Tufts Culinary Society Treasurer Carla Roberts−Toler, a senior, said the food isn’t nearly as spectacular as the panoramic views over the Boston skyline.

“The food was decent — nothing spectacular, but it is definitely worth going for the view alone,” Roberts−Toler said in an e−mail.

Some of the items on the Valentine’s Day menu include tempura oysters with chipotle BBQ sauce and creamy herb polenta, or for the adventurous, slow−roasted guava−brine pork chops with sweet potato puree, apple compote and honey−glazed carrots.

For the most important course, pastry chef Tommy Choi offers a creation known as “The Soulmate Swan”: a duo of chocolate profiterole — or cream puff — swans with strawberry mousse and raspberry sauce. (800 Boylston St., Suite 52 between Fairfield and Gloucester in Back Bay; 617−536−1775)

Dali Restaurant & Tapas Bar

For the artiste/nouvelle valentine

In case you haven’t made a reservation, Dali is the perfect alternative, as it doesn’t take any. As the name suggests, the restaurant serves regional Spanish cuisine in the form of “tapas” — essentially miniature portions to allow tables to sample as many dishes as possible. On Valentines Day, the restaurant is open from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., but the wait can be tortuously long, according to Roberts−Toler.

“I waited two hours to get a table on Valentine’s Day [last year],” Roberts−Toler said. “But it was well worth it — it turned out to be the perfect venue.”

Roberts−Toler cited the combination of its ambiance and its creative tapas as the major draw.

“The atmosphere of the place just screams romance, with its spectacular mood setting — dark lighting, the art, music, etc.,” she said. “Their food was also really good. We shared braised lamb with almond and mint essence, boneless pheasant with mushrooms and bacon and grilled baby lamb chops with peach sauce.”

Though not as romantic as they could be, the desserts are still artful creations of decadence. A rice pudding is served with dulce de leche ice cream, while sweet marzipan−stuffed dates are given an Asian twist with a tangy tamarind sauce.

Tapas run from $6 to $10 each, and the recommended amount is seven to 10 plates for the table. (415 Washington St. in Somerville; 617−661−3254)

No Name Restaurant

For the adventurous valentine

Do not be discouraged by its peculiar name. No Name, situated right by the South Boston Pier, is the quintessential restaurant for the local seafood enthusiast, where the chowder is prounouced “chow−dah.” The long walk from the South Station T−stop along the pier can be romantic, sophomore Brent Abel said, but the pièce de résistance is the restaurant’s view overlooking the Boston Harbor, making it a unique selection for Valentine’s Day.

Views aside, No Name is really about its seafood selections offered at unbeatable prices.

“I love the emphasis on fresh seafood straight from the pier,” Abel said. “Plus, there is so much history with the family−run business, and the prices are super cheap for seafood.”

Like its decor, No Name spares no frills with its menu. Start with classic staples such as clam chowder or share a giant plate of fish and chips, then simply pick from a selection of broiled seafood: mussels, scallops, shrimp, salmon or, as Abel strongly recommends, the broiled scrod.

Like it or not, No Name is not a place for one looking for a fancy heart−to−heart. The dingy surroundings and the brusque service are all part of the experience, if getting “down and dirty” is your thing. Just avoid the crabs. (15 Fish Pier St. West, between Norhern and Trilling in South Boston; 617−338−7539)

UpStairs On The Square

For the romantic valentine

There is no other place quite like UpStairs on the Square, and there is no other restaurant that is more suitable for valentines. The entire restaurant is pink, and the furniture looks like it was stolen from Barbie’s princess castle, except done up in some serious style. Chef Deborah Hughes, awarded “Best Female Chef” from the Food Network 15 years ago, is the proprietor, while Executive Chef Steven Brand heads kitchen operations.

Let your imagination run wild with this one. For one of the Valentine’s Day menus ($85 per person for 3−course, $125 for 5−course), Brand offers Iced Island Creek “Porn Star” Oysters, doused with hot squid and spicy lipstick peppers, as well as “Spoonin’ Smoked Salmon” with Spoonbill caviar for appetizers.

If the sexual connotations cannot get any more explicit, he offers “Love Bird: Sliced Long Island Duck” with tipsy cherries and “A Roll in the Hay”: angel−hair pasta with truffle fonduta and 69−minute egg for mains.

Desserts are surprisingly more restrained. Some of the selections include ice cream profiteroles with rum caramel and chocolate−hazelnut cake with mocha butter cream.

Though dizzyingly rich, the food is handled with a deft hand, according to former Boston Globe food critic Linda Laban, and will leave one delighted rather than overwhelmed.

An attempt to get a reservation will probably end up in disappointment, given its prime location at Harvard Square, but there is certainly no harm in trying. (91 Winthrop St. in Harvard Square)


– Jon Cheng

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Interesting outline. I love to see clearly Marcy Lu

    February 18, 2012

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