Dining á Deux

Eating your heart out on Valentine's Day.

“IT SEEMS TO ME that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.” So wrote American author and gastronome M.F.K. Fisher in 1943; what she seems to be describing is a restaurant. Any eatery worth its designation offers shelter, sustenance, and the buzzing, pulse-quickening nearness of others?if you secure a sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, it’s the nearness of him or her you’ll cherish. The following, in our humble opinion, are some of the better places to have the requisite Romantic Dinner on Saturday, Feb. 14. If you’re prepared to fight the downtown crowd, consider McCormick’s Fish House (722 Fourth Ave., 206-682-3900), where V-Day specials (available Feb. 9-14) include half-shell oysters with wasabi caviar (an aphrodisiacal two-fer, $11.95), lobster steamed with sweet-cream butter ($34.90), almond-crusted marlin in pomegranate butter sauce ($21.85), and grilled top sirloin with a demiglace of figs, pine nuts, and dark chocolate ($25.80). Another variation on the seafood-as-foreplay theme, a festive menu at Fish Club (Marriott Waterfront Hotel, 2100 Alaskan Way, 206-256-1040) features full-bodied, flavorful species?spiced tuna steak ($23), sturgeon saltimbocca and cod ossobuco (both $24) among them. Throw in a real, live harpist (to make dinner “more cupidlike”) and a pair of champagne flutes as parting gifts and you’ve got yourself a memorable evening.

On the other hand, French cuisine is always romantic, and downtown newcomer Bandol (508 Second Ave., 206-447-0222) is celebrating its first V-Day in decadent fashion. At the restaurant’s prix-fixe dinner ($75), scallop-salmon paté and seared foie gras should effectively tickle the palate in advance of roasted sturgeon and rack of venison. Veteran bistro Campagne (86 Pine St., 206-728-2800) counters with its “French Kiss” menu: curried celeriac soup and lobster-avocado-citrus salad (both $9), pan-roasted, and truffle-stuffed chicken ($19) or grilled quail filled with wild mushrooms and hazelnuts ($26) are among the opulent choices. Choose an entrée for two from the prix-fixe menu ($65) at Ponti Seafood Grill (3014 Third Ave. N., 206-284-3000)?chateaubriand or Maine lobster?after working yourselves into a sensory lather with passionfruit-cheese tartlets, baked oysters, and Jerusalem artichoke puree.

Outside the bustling downtown scene, more fanciful dining awaits. Central District head-turner Café Ibex (3219 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., 206-721-7537) has recruited Orchestra Habibi to “coat the dance floor with slippery grooves” of Middle Eastern persuasion, with a bevy of belly-dancing beauties to add atmosphere and Ibex’s usual menu of Ethiopian favorites (Entrées $8-$12) to keep mouths, and possibly hearts, burning brightly. (Cover is $9). Serafina (2043 Eastlake Ave. E., 206-323-0807) boasts brilliant Italian cuisine for lovers who met in Venice, or dream of Venice, or simply want to impress each other by pronouncing cappesante con prosecco e arancia correctly. (It’s sea scallops on arugula with potatoes and blood-orange sauce, incidentally, $24.95) Finally, for hot-blooded couples hoping to eliminate the restaurant-to-home phase of the evening, Alki Market (2820 Alki Ave. S., 206-935-4212) offers fancy feasts “to be enjoyed at home for a more private, intimate meal” ($29.95 for two). Possible courses include stuffed pork chop or game hen, a variety of usual-suspect sides, and desserts that explain the take-home nature of the meal: triple chocolate mousse, vanilla mousse with fruit, chocolate or fruit tarts?and the list goes on. Good luck keeping the mousse on the plate and off each other. Happy Valentine’s Day!