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HELP! I need to wow my boyfriend

ah my boyfriends birthday is coming and I need a great, romantic restaurant to take him to.. he;s always treating me to amazing, expensive dinners (one of our more recent experiences was at susur) and now I really have to make it up to him, so what would be a good romantic dinner destination for two early 20 year olds. I would probably prefer to stay away from italian only because hes been in italy for the past 3 weeks and is probably a bit sick of it
Thanks in advance!!

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  1. Romance can come from many sources. Sometimes a really great room can do it, sometimes amazing food will carry the day. Another variable is quiet, efficient service versus the extremely knowledgeable who can build up amazing anticipation. Here are some recommendations with good to great food, and some adjectives to hopefull give you some intimation of experience.

    Lai Toh Heen - ask for the front section on the bar side. Unobtrusive efficient service in a beautiful room with exotic selections. 150 - 200 per couple for a good feast with wine

    Scaramouche - ask for a view table. Knowledgeable efficient service, beautifully prepared, though not cutting edge food. 200 - 300

    Cava - very knowledgeable, friendly with an edge service. Many times I've just described my mood and said feed me; can't recall a disappointment (but set the ground rules on ranges, as they may upsell). 150 - 250

    93 Harbord - Beautiful room, very calm service, knowledgeable, probably a quiet atmosphere. Food is more off the beaten track middle eastern. 100 - 150

    Joso's - for the shear experience. The next generation is carrying on very well.

    For any of these places, you'll get more mileage if you explain in advance that you want to create an experience/occasion as well as have a meal. Joso's is usually good for a glass of sparkling in these situations. Enjoy!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Snarf

      i would second 93 harbord, the food is stunningly flavourful without being indulgent, and not out the 20-something budget. a lovely modern room with ambiance to spare.

    2. Perhaps still too mediterranean... but what about Chiado? Certainly high end (mains top at $45, specials might be more), a relaxed elegance. impeccable food (especially if you enjoy seafood). impeccable service. It really is one of my favourite places in the city. It also has a great wine list (I might be mistaken, but I think that Wine Spectator said it had the best selection of Portuguese wines in North America), but, as expensive as it is (and it is), the staff do not try to "up sell" you on the wine. Their selections, in my experience, have always been rational.

      As to being in your early 20s, I wouldn't worry about that. They're professionals, and the older clientele tend to be a bit on the casual (yet elegant/nice) side anyway. I first went in my mid 20s, and now early 40s, and honestly, I've noticed no difference in the quality of service.

      If you can, since it is a special night, try to arrange Carlos to wait your table. He works, I think, only Friday evenings now. He's a great guy, knows his stuff intimately, and if you don't know something and have to ask (as I did), he's just enthusiastic about sharing his knowledge. No condescension. Just interest and enthusiasm.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hungry_pangolin

        I have always had a good time at Lolita's Lust on the Danforth, right near Carlaw on the south side. Because there are so many little rooms, sometimes you can request privacy, and they have and excellent wine and menu selection. The only thing that I don't like is the tacky sayings that scroll by on the wall, but it's small enough to ignore it, or lame enough to have a laugh about.

      2. excellent recomendations guys! I will look into each one.. those are all places Ive considered, the trick is to make sure I pick a place he hasnt already been so Ill need to do some investigating. Ill let you know what I go with, and any more feedback/suggestions would be great as well!

        1 Reply
        1. re: hungryabbey

          My boyfriend and I went to Cava last night and, frankly, weren't as wowed with the food as we expected to be. Also, I wouldn't describe the atmosphere as romantic. I'd recommend Amuse Bouche. Its atmosphere is more romantic and the food is really outstanding. We had the tasting menu and weren't disappointed.

        2. - I only had a taste of Colborne Lane (app and cocktail), but I'm eager to go back for more. It was written up in Bon Appetit for October, so may be quite busy now. If you're looking for romance, I would suggest asking not to be seated at the communal table (unless, of course, you find that romantic... I wouldn't!). www.colbornelane.com

          - Lucien looks gorgeous, and while I haven't been, I've always enjoyed Scott Woods' cooking elsewhere. Also, it's new enough that your boyfriend probably hasn't been either. Do note that one poster found it was a little loud. www.lucienrestaurant.com

          - I think Amuse-Bouche is very romantic... not as fancy as Susur or Scaramouche, but more dark and intimate, boite-y kind of romantic. www.amuseboucherestaurant.com

          Please do let us know where you end up...

          1. Per snarf's posting, Scaramouche with a window table would make a great choice.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Charles Yu

              I'd have to agree. Scaramouche! I'm in my early twenties and the staff were so delightful - they seemed to be even friendlier than usual as they could tell it was a special night out.

            2. so Ive been looking at menus and websites and so far I think Ive narrowed it down to scaramouche (personally have always wanted to go, maybe a little selfish, but I am paying for the meal haha), Colborne Lane, Lucien and Amuse Bouche.. but a question about Colborne lane- Rabbit, you mentioned they are communal tables.. is it a problem to ask for a single? are there many of them? because we certainly dont like to feel squished.. I think thats why I enjoyed susur so much was because we have a nice big booth to ourselves and didnt even notice everyone else around us

              1 Reply
              1. re: hungryabbey

                Colborne Lane has quite a few of single tables and they are actually quite big, however there is no table cloth if that's ok with you on the romantic factor. I was seating at a single table once near the corner with a big window at the back of our table, which is quite nice, may be you can ask to reserve that. Colborne Lane has a more casual atmosphere than Scaramouche.

              2. If you want to WOW him and you have been to most places in the city including Sursur I think you will have a tough time doing it. Why not try something like Harvest Restaurant in Picton (about 2 hours east of Toronto) www.harvestrestaurant.ca. It is an excellent restaurant and you can make a day of it and explore the area also which is beautiful. Then get a B&B for the night. The entire event would cost about $300 but I am sure he is worth it.

                8 Replies
                1. re: RJTiger

                  This sounds like a great idea. I was going to suggest something out of town, but I didn't know any top-notch restaurants. If he's well-aware of the Toronto restaurants cene, impressing him will be difficult.

                  1. re: RJTiger

                    hm that is definetly an option.. I was considering taking him out of town... OH, one stipulation I just remembered that will likley narrow things down considerably.. its a sunday :S.. are the options I am considering open on sunday?

                    1. re: hungryabbey

                      DAMN! all 4 of the restaurants at the top of my list are closed on sunday. alright, time to rethink..

                      1. re: hungryabbey

                        Sunday....Lai Toh Heen might still be open. Zucca definitely is.

                        Out of town might work better for the Sunday option. Langdon Hall is about an hour west of town, just south of 401, and has an amazing kitchen, most rooms with fireplaces. Dinner, accomodation could push 400. Though you could bring wine and order into room to cut that down a bit.

                        1. re: hungryabbey

                          Oh dear - I went through the same thing that you did last month. Sundays mean slim pickings.
                          Splendido is still open. There's also the option of a lovely brunch at the Gallery Grill at Hart House on the U of T campus.

                          1. re: Yum2MyTum

                            Maybe dim sum at Lai Wah Heen... definitely upscale, and something different? Although it's not that romantique...

                            1. re: Yum2MyTum

                              Splendido has always looked amazing, now Im looking at the menu and it has 1st, 2nd ad 3rd courses and thenalso dessert.. but no prices.. can anyone tell me approx how much their courses run? Im would do the tasting menu but I think Im going to have a special cake made for him for us to have later, so we'll skip dessert, also how are portions? like would be it necessary to have all 3 courses?

                              1. re: hungryabbey

                                Their 3 course Table d'Hote is $103 ( $116 with dessert ). Any special requests, just talk to Yannick the owner ahead of time. He is most friendly and accomadating!

                      2. Wow is always subjective, and depends on what else you might be planning that is in the non-food playground. This thread started out on the basis of an evening, then there were some useful suggestions with the out of town/Sunday potential limitations.

                        Brunch can lead to many interesting conclusions on a Sunday. There are a number of cool brunches in the city, ranging from the ornate and delicious Lai Wah Heen, to casual jazz at Revival or Free Times (sometimes the Pilot does a jazz brunch on Sunday), which could be followed by a captivating cocktail at the top of the Park Hyatt in front of the fireplace. The rest of the agenda might move to a different board that Chow.com might not have conceived of yet. Well-fed langour? Perusal of the Bata museum stiletto collection?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Snarf

                          hm interesting perspective snarf, I didnt consider brunch, I figured I would be so busy running around lol I will consider that though, thanks

                          1. re: hungryabbey

                            Often overlooked on this board is Celestin.
                            The staff bend over backwards to please.
                            Had dinner there this week, with very specific requests for our guests.
                            They, as well as the food were wonderful.
                            My lobster main with chanterelles and sweetbreads, was "wow".

                        2. hungryabbey- where did you end up going? how was it? (looking to choose a resto for my upcoming b-day, along the same lines)

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: LemonLauren

                            we went to the Globe. It isnt the most amazing restaurant we've been to, but honestly, it was perfect and we had an amazing time. Heres my review:

                            1. re: hungryabbey

                              Sounds like a great meal! I wish I had a boyfriend like yours when I was in my early 20's. A man who loves good food and treats his girlfriend to high-end dinners? Can't be beat.

                          2. wow lol... this is way over my head man. I'm one of those guys who is not too obsessed with the whole decor and fancy shmansy aspects when dining out.

                            Even if my GF is treating ME. I mean, what I personally look for in a restaurant 1st and is= if the food is authentic and tasty. Mom and Pop like even...

                            2nd thing is that the place provides a safe and comfortable place to dine and socialize. Not too much rush.

                            I just hate having to go to those "high end" restaurants where everybody tries to out dress the other person, out pays the other person, out tips the other person, and pretty much out do the other person. Just not me you know. I'm not there to impress the world and project an image of perceived class.

                            I just want good food, comfortable/safe environment, and not too much fuss.
                            I mean, whats the point if the decor and design is all good, when the food is bland or has no content?

                            Not sure if your BF is like me hehe... Not even sure if I am among a minority... but I'm just saying from my perspective... What it really depends on is your BF's personality.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Mike Tyson

                              I hear you loud and clear and totally understand. Some of those "high end" restaurants act plain snotty to those who aren't "hip" enough, (eg the right clothes, accessories etc.). Though I must admit, hubby and I are often quite amused watching people trying to impress others at these establishments, especially those on first dates.

                              Now that's said, I'd like to hear your favs for good dining in a non-flashy, but nice environment?

                              1. re: mrsleny

                                lol I just like good food haha. As long as the establishment doesn't have booze hounds or druggies hanging out, I'm fine.

                                P.S I'm really into home cooked style Vietnamese food, Caribbean foods, Thai places (something a bit more authentic than Salad King though), that sort of stuff.

                                If I can think of some places, I'll let you know in the future. Right now I can't think of any for some reason.

                              2. re: Mike Tyson

                                Mike, I agree and I think my bf would agree totally with you. he HATES showing off, and hates ppl who show off themselves. However, when he has impressed me on numerous occasions with beautiful dinners, I figured it was time I at least gave a modest attempt at a payback for his birthday at a restaurant that was a bit more for a special occasion. Dont get me wrong, we love good food even if its at a little sushi place hidden away and costs us 25$ for the two of us, but a birthday deserves something more (in my opinion and in our situation)