Restaurants for Valentine's Day in Vancouver, from pizza to proposal

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Let’s be honest. A lot of us would probably choose amazingly delicious food over sex. If you can share both with your romantic partner/prospect, all the better. Valentine’s Day (cheer or groan if you will) is fast approaching, and if you want to dine out, different restaurants suit different stages of a relationship. Tables at many book up quickly for February 14, so reserve now at one of the places suggested below that fits where your relationship—and your palate—is at now.

Baby Steps

Okay. We’ll ignore the fact that you’ve rather recklessly booked a first or second date on Valentine’s Day; no need to ramp up the expectations even more with a candlelit meal and a serenading violinist. Quick, low-key, and relatively cheap—that’s how it’s done in this situation. At Via Tevere (1190 Victoria Drive, 604-336-1803), get your hands dirty together by ripping into seriously good pizza certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, like the classic Margherita or a version with tomatoes, prosciutto, mushrooms, and fior di latte mozzarella. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so get there early.

Test the purported effects of oysters as an aphrodisiac with your date (and report back on Confessions at straight.com/) at Oyster Express (296 Keefer Street, 604-684-3300). Owner Shawn Chesney recommends sharing a dozen bivalves, such as the “amazingly plump and beautiful” ones from Gorge Inlet, over glasses of vino. “We are an interesting place to go, even for oyster beginners who are open to learning,” he says during a phone chat. “It [trying something new] provides stimulating conversation.” And the slurping will definitely help with any lulls in the conversation.

Going Steady

You’ve had the talk about being exclusive, you’ve updated your respective Facebook statuses, and that initially awkward dining period has passed. However, you still need to impress each other and pretend to be cool. (Don’t head for places with laminated menus just yet.) There’s something raw and alluring about Wildebeest (120 West Hastings Street, 604-687-6880), which combines a brick-and-wood-accented dining room with unapologetically robust cooking. Dishes include roasted veal sweetbreads, hay-aged smoked quail, and line-caught lingcod with fermented cabbage and candied cod belly. On V-Day, expect a few extra features made for sharing.

Another room that hits a sexy-yet-relaxed note is West Oak (1035 Mainland Street, 604-629-8808), the Yaletown hot spot that serves what executive chef Tim Cuff describes over the phone as “West Coast, rustic, casual food”. In addition to their regular menu, Cuff will offer a $70 per person four-course menu with dish options that showcase ingredients known for their amatory effects. Couples will start with kusshi oysters with gin and strawberry ice, followed by an appetizer like a roasted lobster tail with sweet corn purée, roasted cauliflower, and crispy pancetta, and mains such as roasted beef tenderloin for two with sunchoke purée, roasted fingerling potatoes, green beans, and mushroom jus. A shared dessert platter features a warm spiced pineapple cake and dark chocolate chili pot de crème.

Time to Pop the Question

Whether you want to ask your sweetie to adopt a hamster with you or—gulp—marry you, there are certain places in town that have a good track record for setting the right mood. During a phone chat, Rowena Chan, a representative with the Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, estimates that at least two proposals happen in the hotel each month. Many of these take place in the gorgeous Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge (845 Hornby Street, 604-608-5319). The $95 four-course Valentine’s Day menu will have your beloved swooning over hot applewood-smoked B.C. coho salmon, parsnip and vanilla velouté with Nova Scotia lobster, a choice of main courses such as pan-seared scallops with Dungeness crab and tomato risotto, and a dessert selection for two that includes an iced rose-water parfait.

Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill (1133 Hamilton Street, 604-688-7466) also helps facilitate proposals. “One time, this guy asked me to put this important engagement ring in a lava cake, and it went to the table, and his girlfriend almost choked on it,” recounts Pino Posteraro, the restaurant’s owner and chef. The good news is she said yes—and so would most anyone after sumptuous Italian fare like oxtail ravioli with sage and garlic butter, and veal osso buco with saffron risotto, in elegant surroundings. On February 14, Posteraro will also treat couples to a complimentary sweet.

So Much More than Ho-Hum

Perhaps you’re spending a long-anticipated night away from the kiddies or celebrating many, many years of longevity as a couple. The Pink Peppercorn Seafood House (1485 Kingsway, 604-569-3626), run by Edward Geekiyanage (a former chef at the legendary, now-closed Cannery seafood restaurant), offers couples nostalgia along with a seafood-centric menu. Popular dishes include the salmon wellington with fresh baby shrimp and mushroom duxelles, and the West Coast bouillabaisse. V-Day specials will include a Dungeness and blue crab salad, and lemon pepper–crusted scallops.

At this stage in a relationship, nothing beats the coziness of a French bistro such as the intimate and charming Pied-à-Terre (3369 Cambie Street, 604-873-3131) for renewing your amour. Pied-à-Terre’s special $79 per person, three-course menu begins with Kir Royale and canapés and then moves on to selections such as duck consommé with mushrooms and dumplings, grilled côte de boeuf with frites and creamed spinach for two, and, bien sûr, a sinful chocolate trio for two.

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