In Good Taste

The Most Decadent Dishes to Try This Valentine’s Day

Indulge in truffles, pasta, and red velvet cake at these romantic restaurants.

Valentine’s Day might be the Hallmark holiday that everyone loves to hate. But if anything can get skeptics to partake, it’s food—the universal love language. (The holiday was founded as The Feast of St. Valentine, after all.) As such, dining out on February 14 is a must, not only for lovestruck couples, but also for BFFs, siblings, and even moms and dads who are hoping to gather around the table with their kids. No matter which loved ones you’re celebrating with, here are the most decadent dishes to consider when making reservations this year.

Cauliflower Risotto at Alma Cocina Latina
There’s a lot of love that goes into the artfully plated dishes at Canton’s Venezuelan dining den. Exhibit A is the cauliflower risotto with black garlic, fried kale, shaved macadamia nuts, and preserved lemon cream—which is one of three courses that will be served on the restaurant’s V-Day menu February 14-16. There will also be caramelized eggplant nuggets, roasted squash with scallops, and an almond cake with pear compote. To make the deal even sweeter, Alma is hosting Latin contemporary jazz duo Fran Vielma and Cesar Orozco in the dining room on Valentine’s night. 2400 Boston St., Ste 108. $75. 667-212-4273

Maryland Roll at Azumi
Make your way to this Harbor East hotspot to indulge in an evening of Japanese fine-dining. Azumi is setting the mood with a four-course menu of delicacies including seaweed salad, aged dashi tofu, ponzu-baked scallops, and king crab legs with ichimi butter. For the main event, choose from baked lobster imperial, miso black cod, a fourteen-piece sashimi dinner, or the plump Maryland Roll—which arrives filled with snow crab, avocado, spicy scallop shrimp, and crispy shallots. 725 Aliceanna St. 443-220-0477

Grilled Beef Tenderloin at Charleston
Designed with romantic roses, fancy fabrics, and flickering candles, the charming interior of this Harbor East gem is enough to make anyone swoon. Chef Cindy Wolf has crafted a special menu for the occasion, which features a grilled beef tenderloin served alongside a crispy grit cake. For seafood lovers, there’s also Scottish salmon crudo, sea scallops, and pan-roasted turbot. 1000 Lancaster St. $169-239. 410-332-7373

Chilled Chocolate Ice Cream Soup at The Charmery

Come February 12, The Charmery co-owners David and Laura Alima will transform their ice cream factory at Union Collective into Chez Charmerie—a “pinky-out” dining establishment that offers a seated, three-course dessert experience. Dress to the nines and start things off with a sweet tribute to Haussner’s turtle soup made with chocolate ice cream, pecans, and house-made caramel Jello. There will also be duck à l’orange (a ducky-shaped shortbread cookie with orange juice frosting) and an innovative take on the classic banana split. 1700 W. 41st St. $25. 443-759-4905

Passionfruit Heart for Two at Citron
After indulging in dishes like grilled quail, braised veal cheeks, and a strawberry and feta-filled Valentine Salad, be sure to save room for the special passionfruit heart for two—an almond dacquoise with passionfruit curd and a drizzle of rum caramel sauce. The Pikesville restaurant has also created a cupid-inspired cocktail menu, featuring drinks like the “Chocolate Martini Be Mine” (Godiva liquor, Van Gogh vanilla vodka, and crème de cocoa) and the “French Kiss,” fusing gin, Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar. 2605 Quarry Lake Drive., Pikesville. $85. 410-363-0900

Oysters on the Half Shell at Dylan’s Oyster Cellar
Oysters are some of the most well-known aphrodisiacs around, so it should come as no surprise that the bivalve experts at this Hampden hangout have planned a three-night lovefest in honor of the holiday. Starting on February 12, Dylan’s is hosting an oyster-tasting-meets-speed-dating event where singles slurp a new oyster during every round. Head to the bar the following night for a Galentine’s party complete with half-priced wines, Bitter Heart cocktails, $11 burgers, and $1.50 local oysters. The week culminates on February 14, when Dylan’s will offer oyster specials, drinks for two, and shareable plates from 5 p.m. to midnight. To make the meal even more memorable, the spot is teaming up with Local Color Flowers to offer custom bouquets on every table, which are available for pre-order with a reservation by February 10. 3601 Chestnut Ave. 443-759-6595

Red Velvet Cake at The Elephant
Stimulate your senses with the multi-course meal at this Mt. Vernon mansion. The fixed menu will begin with a surprise amuse bouche that diners sample blindfolded—a play on the “dark dining” theory that the removal of vision enhances gastronomic pleasure. There will also be banana leaf curry salmon, lemon caper chicken, and Moroccan meatballs with cauliflower polenta. The dessert course features options ranging from a whipped cream-topped “Break My Heart” brownie to a cream cheese-filled red velvet cake garnished with a chocolate-covered strawberry. 924 N. Charles St. $85. 443-447-7878

Tagliatelle Bolognese at Germano’s Piattini
Nothing says love like smooth jazz. Head to the upstairs cabaret at Germano’s in Little Italy to enjoy a $35 three-course menu featuring charcuterie, grilled salmon, veal saltimbocca, lamb stew, and a signature bolognese with house-made tagliatelle. All the while, sway to timeless love songs performed by acclaimed California vocalist Renée Georges backed by pianist Justin Taylor, bassist Herman Burney, and drummer Philip Thomas. 300 S. High St. 410-752-4515

Crab Cake Lover Duo at Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen

Experts say opposites attract, and Gertrude’s at the Baltimore Museum of Art is applying that theory to its famous crab cakes this Valentine’s Day. On the restaurant’s three-course tasting menu, diners will find a classic Eastern Shore crab cake served alongside a Bloody Mary-inspired “Dirty Gertie” cake flavored with tomato, Tobasco sauce, celery seed, cilantro, and Old Bay. Other offerings include potato-crusted lamb chops, monkfish medallions, and vegan dishes like a wild mushroom stroganoff with farfalle pasta. The shareable banana split (Taharka Bros. salty caramel and vanilla ice cream topped with cocoa nibs and vanilla-bean chantilly cream) is a must-try for lovebirds. 10 Art Museum Drive. $39-49. 410-889-3399

Lobster Hot Pot at Gunther & Co.

There are a number of soul-satisfying specialties to devour at this Brewers Hill favorite this V-Day. Among them is the lobster swimming in a hot pot of Thai butter, cilantro, fennel, and fingerling potatoes. Other wordly dishes on chef/owner Jerry Trice’s four-course menu include Vietnamese pork belly with pickled vegetables, risotto of green garbanzos, and a sous vide Wagyu short rib with yuccas bravas. 3650 Toone St. $85. 443-869-6874

Parisian Gnocchi at La Cuchara
Gnocchi with English peas, wild mushrooms, and two-year aged manchego? Sign us up. At this Basque-inspired Clipper Mill hideaway, chef/owner Ben Lefenfeld is whipping up a four-course prix-fixe with desirable dishes like crispy oysters, lobster bisque with black truffle, endive and radicchio salad, Roseda Farms strip steak, and bluefin tuna. For dessert, feel the love with a chocolate semifreddo or citrusy pavlova with airy meringue. 3600 Clipper Mill Rd. $89. 443-708-3838

Shrimp Bisque with Cajun Crawfish at The Red Star
At both Red Star locations in Fells Point and Charles Village, chef Francisco Lopez is offering amorous specials throughout Valentine’s Day weekend. Forget your winter woes with a (heart)warming seafood bisque filled with plump shrimp and Cajun crawfish. Other specials of note include braised short ribs, pan-seared diver scallops, and a roasted beet salad in a strawberry-balsamic reduction. End the meal on a sweet note with poached pears in a honey glaze. Multiple locations including 906 S. Wolfe St. 410-675-0212

Filet Mignon at Rye Street Tavern

Dim lighting and warm woods contribute to the alluring ambiance at this Port Covington restaurant. Snag a seat in the dining room (or at the chef’s table overlooking the open kitchen) to cut into chef Brian Plante’s bone-in filet mignon with piave potatoes and bérnaise sauce. Meat lovers will also enjoy the lamb rack for two, and a dry-aged Long Island duck on the three-course Valentine’s Day menu. 13 Rye St. 443-662-8000. $95

Spaghetti and Meatballs at Sotto Sopra
Sotto Sopra in Mt. Vernon is continuing its tradition of family dining for Valentine’s Day with a special menu of kid-friendly fare on February 11. (Chef/owner Riccardo Bosio’s daughters, Amelia and Virginia, will be the hostesses for the evening.) Pre-bedtime seatings from 5-5:45 p.m. will feature red sauce spaghetti with lamb meatballs, polenta fries with cheese fondue for dipping, classic fettuccine alfredo, and chocolate cake with vanilla gelato. Moms and dads will be able to choose from the restaurant’s regular roster of Italian specialties. 405 N. Charles St. 410-625-0534

Chocolate Mille-Feuille at Chez Hugo Bistro

Pastry chef Theresa Louis is putting her own spin on a traditional mille-feuille (similar to a classic Napoleon with alternating layers of puff pastry and filling) for the Valentine’s Day menu at Chez Hugo Bistro. Her chocolate version, served with a blood orange cream, will act as the grand finale to chef Steve Monnier’s four-course menu—which highlights grilled oysters with preserved ramps, a radicchio and pear salad, and ribeye with beef jus and brown butter. 206 E. Redwood St. $55. 443-438-3002