TOP 5 LA’S MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANTS
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1. ONE PICO, SANTA MONICA
Escape to Nantucket at this beachside destination seducing lovers and landlubbers alike, where you can grab front row seats overlooking the Pacific. If that’s not enough to impress your sunset-discriminating friend, cozy up to the roaring fire over surf and turf plates, like wild snapper with housemade cous cous, lobster fettuccini, 24-day aged rib-eye and Sunday night prime rib dinner served table side. The quiet dining room jazzes up, literally, come nightfall with live piano Sundays to Tuesdays and Supa Lowery Bros. on trumpet and drums Thursdays to Saturdays in the hotel’s Living Room lounge, perfect for graduating on to cocktails and more fireside canoodling.
2. ELF CAFE, ECHO PARK
Because vegetarians are lovers, too. This Echo Park haunt is a date night go-to for Eastside vegetarians and omnivores alike who fall for the Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean menu that changes with the season. Call ahead to claim a spot at the counter or table, rubbing elbows with your date (or neighbor) inside the cozy, matchbox-size dining room. BYOB ($5 charge) and toast over vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options like Moroccan vegetable tagine and walnut-pesto pappardelle.
3. INN OF THE SEVENTH RAY, TOPANGA
Forget the Topanga stereotypes of burning sage and healing crystals (OK, they sell those here too). Off Old Topanga Road, love-stricken diners can enter a bucolic, wooded city escape: A multi-tiered outdoor dining space draped in lights, lilac and oak trees—and, yes, the wafting scent of incense that hits you on your way in. Take in the serene, creekside surroundings under heat lamps and twinkling stars. Start with a fermented elixir and follow with a slow-poached local egg with potato-truffle foam and then, charcoal-grilled grass-fed beef or miso-braised short ribs with housemade kimchi. Nostalgic Angelenos will be happy to know that it’s still veg, vegan and gluten-free–friendly and has been romancing diners for more than 35 years.
4. FIREFLY, STUDIO CITY
Firefly may be the closest thing to a modern day secret garden in LA, walls of tangled ivy included. Found on a more popular stretch of Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, the fine-dining restaurant offers modern American cuisine from chef Paul Shoemaker in a romantic, cozy setting—a heated patio is decorated in candles and twinkling lights, while the library-like bar area offers a truncuated menu and an ideal date-night vibe. In this secret garden, you’re fed exquisite plates of Shoemaker’s carefully constructed dishes, like perfectly seared scallops or the popular John Dory chicken. Make goo-goo eyes at your date by sharing A Beautiful Disaster: a deconstructed ice cream cone (with spiced mocha and peanut butter scoops) that looks like it has fallen and splattered on a plate.
5. NOBU MALIBU, MALIBU
While ocean views are a dime a dozen in LA, Nobu’s rivals any we’ve seen, with waves crashing down below, some sandy footsteps away from the Malibu pier. And while the dramatic oceanscape, complete with a beach house–like patio, is an obvious draw that seems all-looks-and-no-substance, the eatery doesn’t give it all away at once—there’s food chops to back its good-looks reputation. Sushi whiz Nobu Matsuhisa’s food is still as good as ever, and with a new address of sleek, minimalist style, the destination is more relevant now than before. Sit on the patio or take a seat at the sushi counter and let the chef guide you through Peruvian-inflected tiradito, uni mini tacos and sashimi so fresh, you can taste the Pacific. (Take note: Every night of the week is packed; reservations are a must.)