Leave No Oyster Unshucked

A Valentine's Day dining guide.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food," George Bernard Shaw once wrote. This is only true until it isn't: Not until you find someone to share your beloved food does life really start to make sense. On Valentine's Day, all couples—new or ancient, calm or volatile—must dine out. It's practically the law. Hence, we present a half-dozen ways to get your evening of sincerity—equal parts epicurean and amorous—off to a rousing start. (All events listed occur on Monday, Feb. 14; make reservations as soon as humanly possible.) Valentine's Day is about the choices you make: where to eat, which bottle of 1995 pinot noir to uncork, which foot to fetishize first. . . . In this spirit, Nell's (6804 E. Greenlake Dr. N., 206-524-4044, GREEN LAKE) lets couples choose between pairs of appetizers, first courses, entrées, and desserts to create a four-course meal ($60). To propose or not to propose is no dilemma at all compared to: Penn Cove oysters or sweet-onion tart? Lobster risotto or pan-seared black cod? Beet-marinated monkfish or New York strip sirloin? Dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Q: What's more romantic than a Latin restaurant with a massive wine selection? A: Very little. The award- winning wine list at Dulces Latin Bistro (1430 34th Ave., 206-322-5753, MADRONA) is 36 pages long, and we hear the food, including the $75 V-Day menu (shrimp empanadas, beet salad, ravioli with sun-dried tomato cream sauce, and peppercorn-crusted beef tenderloin or New Zealand lamb cooked with wine and herbs) isn't too shabby, either. Dinner from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Both the Woodinville and Kirkland outposts of Purple Café & Wine Bar (14459 Woodinville-Redmond Rd., 425-483-7129, WOODINVILLE; 323 Park Place, 425-828-3772, KIRKLAND) are outdoing themselves on Feb. 14 with a six-course feast ($65; $85 with wine pairings). Toasted brioche with quail eggs and caviar and figs wrapped in phyllo dough and served with Stilton and prosciutto are merely a prelude to seared scallops with a red-wine reduction and an entrée of horseradish-crusted filet of beef (or red pepper pappardelle, which is extremely fun to say). Dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. What Pasta Freska (1515 Westlake Ave. N., 206-283-1515, QUEEN ANNE) has going is a dinner-diner dating service: You tell the chef what you're looking for, and he matches you up with a five-course meal ($30/person). Your entrée of choice could have claws (lobster), many tiny legs (black tiger prawns), or even wings (stuffed chicken marsala)—we really don't care, as long as you two are happy together. Dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. A place that keeps you in curries, pakoras, and kormas on Christmas wouldn't leave you hanging on Valentine's Day, and so it is that Northgate's Masala of India Cuisine (539 N.E. Northgate Way, 206-417-1118, NORTHGATE) presents a buffet ($40/couple!) to fall in love by. Help yourself to some aloo tikki and dal, then eat your way through fish masala, matar paneer, shrimp saag, and Masala's widely adored butter chicken. As is customary, the per-couple price includes a glass of champagne apiece. Dinner from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. The recent recipient of glowing praise in these pages, XO Bistro (2359 10th Ave. E., 206-328-6444, CAPITOL HILL) keeps up the good work with its three-course V-Day menu ($49), a parade of elegant Frenchness that includes Dungeness crab bisque, an entrée of seared lamb loin with ratatouille and thyme sauce, seafood vol au vent (pastry filled with ragout), or marinated flank steak with Walla Walla onions in a red-wine reduction, plus mocha opera cake for dessert. Dinner from 5 to 10 p.m.

 
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