Valentine's Day means heavy traffic, inflated prices and sometimes unrealistic expectations of a candle lit dinner in a fancy bistro. Having been forewarned, if you're still up for a tete a tete, here are some highly recommended date places this coming Valentine's Day, arranged from least expensive to most expensive.
1. Café Juanita
Tucked in one of the small streets of Pasig is Café Juanita. It’s a quaint, gaudily-decorated restaurant with lots of nooks and corners, ensuring that you and your date don’t see much of the guests sitting at the other tables.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
If you’re in the mood for Filipino food, try Kare Kare ni Juanita (P439) or Bagnet Salad (P297). The Sisig on Tofu (P239) is an absolute must-try– mildly hot, crispy, and very, very delectable. If you’re the type who doesn’t like liver in your sisig, you’ll make an exception for this one. The real steals are the desserts – with almost all items costing less than P100. Don’t leave without trying the Sticky Toffee Pudding (P81).
2. Gulliver’s of San Francisco
If you can take the traffic along Makati Avenue, hop over to Gulliver’s for soft, richly marbled steak at bargain prices.
Roast Prime Ribs of Beef
The most famous item on the menu is Roast Prime Ribs of Beef (P680 - petite cut), which comes with Yorkshire pudding, spinach soufflé, baked potato and creamed corn.
The interiors are dim, the tables are far apart, and the place doesn’t fill up like more well-known date places. At night, a pianist serenades diners with classic love songs. For once, you’d almost start wishing that service would be slow just so you and your date would have a reason to tarry. The only hitch is that the chairs and the carpet do look a bit worn-out. But with the diffused lighting, cold air-conditioning and soft live music, the outdated furnishings would probably be the last thing on your mind this Valentine’s.
Tip: The parking lot is located behind the hotel, but the street is narrow. Just park at A. Venue Mall and cross the street to Great Eastern Hotel.
3. Duo Steak House and Wine Bar
Duo is best known for its tender, tasty steaks. Unless you’re extremely hungry, select any of the 120g servings (P700 for US Wagyu sirloin and P685 for NZ Beef Tenderloin), as this size is enough for most people.
Steak and Sole
Go for the Steak Combinations to get the best value for your money. Highly recommended is Steak and Sole (P450), which has both US Steak au jus and grilled sole fillet topped with escargot provencal, plus penne putanesca to boot.
The crowd is subdued and big groups usually take the outdoor tables, so Duo is ideal for a long, quiet dinner. What makes Duo truly memorable is its impeccable service. On one occasion, I ordered too much and was only able to finish half of my Tessie Tomas Salad (P390/small). The waiter looked genuinely offended and asked if the salad was not to my liking. Servers automatically refill water glasses and bread baskets; the only time when you have to call their attention is when you ask for the bill. For Valentine’s, Duo will be offering a Valentine’s Day Menu at P1950 per person (plus 10% service charge). Couples can choose from Grilled US Angus Tenderloin or Roasted Herbs-pine nuts crusted with Lamb Tenderloin, plus salad, soup, dessert and Moet and Chandon Champagne.
Aubergine is a very discreet restaurant, unlike other places in Serendra, Bonifacio High Street or Greenbelt where you will run into lots of other people coming into and out of cafes and shops.
Privacy has a price though; the cheapest main entrée is Pan roasted pork medallions (P590). The steaks come in big servings but are relatively expensive – Australian mulwarra beef tenderloin steak (250g) comes at P1,500. Before you get a chance to browse the menu, you will be presented with the Chef’s Special for the day, which are actually good deals because P1,350 or P1,650 can usually cover a main entrée and a side dish. When you get the bill, the blow is softened because they usually give complimentary appetizers and chocolates.
Lighting is muted and the couches are warm and plush – perfect for just relaxing and lounging around. Choose your drink from the floor to ceiling wine cellar and you’re all set for a giddy evening.
If for some reason you've lucked out and you can't get reservations in any of the restaurants above, or anywhere else for that matter, just keep in mind that if your date forgives you for this mess-up, you have a good chance of making it up to her next Valentines. Happy Hearts Day!