New York may disappoint us from time to time—what with fare hikes, slushy streets and the occasional unkempt sidewalk—but when the 14th of February rolls around, it knows just how to impress us with its old charm. Restaurants are particularly looking to indulge our appetites this time around, recession be damned. And with all their fancy twists, these spots have still managed to keep our health in mind while satisfying our hard-to-please carnivorous ways—think roasted pheasant with freekah risotto and beets (at Savoy), grass-fed bison carpaccio (at Emporio) and sticky toffee date cake (at Almond). It’s enough to give we here at Clean Plates just the tingle on our heart strings we were hoping for.
Three courses, $90 (Wine pairings, $75); (212) 265-5959; sd26ny.com
Courses here come in pairs. Choose from oysters with a Champagne vinaigrette or mussels with cannellini beans in a parsley broth to start. For the second course, it’s a pleasing choice between a plate of garganelli with chives or ravioli with sea urchin. The last course features a roast baby lamb with rosemary, and dessert, a passion-fruit soufflé for two.
Four course, $95; (212) 219-8570; savoynyc.com
This menu is still in the works but we do know there will be lots to love here. To start, choose from a plate of Lively Run Goat’s Milk feta (native to New York) with roasted radicchio, blood orange and honey; a spaghetti squash carbonara with house-cured pancetta, sage and a slow-poached egg; cauliflower custard or a charred octopus with shaved fennel and kalamata olives. The second course features a duck breast with cornbread and wild rice or a roasted pheasant with beet, freekeh risotto and a smokey broth. Finish with a malted milk chocolate crème brûlée or a coffee-and-cream terrine.
Two courses, $50; (212) 966-1234; auroraristorante.com
For the vegetarian dating a carnivore, Emporio has six appetizers and mains to choose from that will satisfy both appetites. Start off with a roasted beet salad, octopus with fingerling potatoes, grass-fed bison carpaccio or the raw hamachi crudo with fennel in a ginger-lemon-honey vinaigrette. Then go for the butternut squash and taleggio tortellini with butter and sage or the the free-range Hudson Valley duck breast with truffled lentils and broccoli rabe. Finish with a share of two desserts: a flour-less spicy chocolate cake and a passion-fruit panna cotta.
Three courses, $55 per person; (212) 228-7557; almondnyc.com
It’s all about ruby-red pomegranates at Almond, where you’ll find dishes like oysters over pomegranate-prosecco granit, a sumac-rubbed rack of lamb with saffron jus (for the carnivore) and King salmon, smoked, roasted and served with baby root vegetables and pomegrante gastrique for the vegetarian. Dessert finishes the meal with a sticky toffee date cake with crème fraiche ice cream that should make you both happy.
Tocqueville (Union Square)
Three courses, $95; (212) 647-1515; tocquevillerestaurant.com
There’s lots to choose from here, with seven different appetizers, mains and desserts. We like the sound of the creamless purée of sunchokes, the yellowfin tuna tartare or the butternut squash risotto with mushrooms and sage to start. For the main, we’d take a roasted organic cod, the honey-glazed peking duck breast with Greenmarket cabbage or the dry-aged strip loin of beef and BBQ cheeks with tender leeks, carrots and citrus. The dessert’s a toss-up between Sicilian blood-orange cheesecake, a frozen banana soufflé or the confit of chestnut with crispy meringue and Kentucky bourbon-chocolate ice cream to share.
Hearth (East Village)
Four courses, $99 (Wine pairings, $49); (646) 602-1300; restauranthearth.com
Start off with a simple plate of grilled Nantucket Bay scallops with blood orange, frisée and pistachio paired with a Chateau Musar Blanc from Bekaa Valley. That’s followed by a black bass dressed in beets, potato and onion with a Chablis to the side. Then comes the tagliatellle with black truffles (and a Barbaresco from Piedmont) followed by a rack and ossobucco of lamb with Corona beans and artichoke paired with a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. A meal like this gets its proper finish—a red velvet soufflé with chocolate sauce and XO Reserve Pyrat Rum from the British West Indies.
Photo by Thomas R. Stegelmann