While it goes without saying that all have our own set of turn-ons (witness the perpetual popularity of sliders and shrimp nibblers at White Castle’s V-Day table service dinners), there’s a reason that chocolate, roses, and Barry White are considered paragons of romance. So if you (or your sweetie) are suckers for that tried-and-true sappy stuff, make a reservation at Brooklyn’s red beet ravioli-slinging Le Fanfare, with its hot jazz and even hotter staff, or the Japanese brasserie Zenkichi, serving translucent fish and sake in secluded, curtained-off rooms.
Le Fanfare: Don’t despair if the servers and bartenders (to say nothing of the owners) are prettier than you—everyone reaps the benefits of complaisant lighting at Le Fanfare, provided only from votive candles and low-wattage bulbs, suspended inside of swirling brass hoops. And while the trio of high-backed trolley car booths are undeniably intimate, a wall of hand-carved marble tables (generously curved like a lady’s hip) are custom made for couples, who can then happily slurp Lady and the Tramp-style on squid ink-stained spaghetti brushed with chilies and bottarga. “Bella Notte” probably isn’t on the live gypsy jazz band’s playlist, but a bass-thumping version of “My Funny Valentine” should more than fit the bill.
1103 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint
The River Café: The fact that a majority of Brooklyn’s sultriest date destinations involve communal, reclaimed refectory tables and tap wine sipped from tumblers, makes this landmarked waterfront restaurant—the only truly white tablecloth spot in the borough—seem exceptionally seductive; imperceptibly bobbing astride the East River, the River Café’s tables are set with genuine silver and sumptuous roses, and the soundtrack is limited to the tinkling of piano music and the clinking of crystal goblets, all filled with Pavillon Rouge du Chateux Margaux or Krug Brut Champagne Grande Cuvée.
1 Water Street, DUMBO
Vinegar Hill House: Not only is the lantern-lit VHH (situated in a converted carriage house) one of Brooklyn’s most alluring restaurants—having essentially shaped the borough’s signature rustic-salvaged shtick with vintage wallpaper, mismatched chairs, mounted pipe organs, domed cakes propped on shelves and cast-iron chicken for two—it’s located in our hands-down most romantic hamlet—the water-adjacent, tree-shaded, cobblestoned, singularly secluded, and pre-Civil War row house-appointed Vinegar Hill.
72 Hudson Avenue, Vinegar Hill
Saraghina: Who said pizza margherita can’t be every bit as celebratory as lobster tails and filet mignon? Especially when its fashioned in a flickering wood-burning oven, which commands a place of honor in Saraghina’s series of white wood-paneled rooms, outfitted with cozy nooks and retro motel signs. Extend your romantic evening with after-dinner digestivi at their charming Italian bar just down the street, as well as the next morning, with naturally leavened ciabatta and focaccia from an adjoining bakery.
435 Halsey Street, Bed-Stuy
Zenkichi: Japanese izakayas are traditionally intended as ultra-casual after-work hangouts or late-night drinking spots, for killing mountains of soy-shellacked chicken wings or guzzling sake or beer. Not so the multi-level, omakase-serving Zenkichi, which features bamboo-lined, pebble-strewn walkways that meander past cloistered, curtained booths where waiters are summoned with the surreptitious tap of a buzzer. And since the spot asks only $65 for eight, chef-selected courses, like kombu-cured sashimi, trumpet mushroom tempura and frozen black sesame mousse, you’ll leave with a wallet as full as your stomach—and, hopefully, your heart.
77 N 6th Street, Williamsburg
June Wine Bar: From the Piedmontese Rucola (tucked into a gracious Boerum Hill brownstone) to the Catalonia-inspired Cassette (commandeering a window-framed corner space in Greenpoint) Henry Rich is especially adept at creating sexy spaces—and his middle child, June, might just be the most swoon worthy. Evoking turn-of-the-century Paris with vaulted ceilings, a long marble bar and glassed in, burgundy-red booths (courtesy of the design gurus at hOmE), June places primary emphasis on lusty small plates and natural wines, such as duck confit cassoulet, perhaps, paired with a quartino of orange wine, such as the Trebbiano/Malvasia from Colombaia in Tuscany.
231 Court Street, Cobble Hill