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Feb 13, 2010 08:43 AM

Valentine's Day: the madness begins

I was dining out last night for the last time before I nestle safely into my own kitchen for the next few days. It was instructive to talk to the bartender, servers, and chef, who were all girding themselves mentally for a siege over the next two days. It was clear that while they were grateful for the coming surge in business, they still were in utter dread of the Valentine's Day weekend crowds.

I like to say (I know, ad nauseum) that it's silly to dine out on this weekend, as Valentine's Day is part of the great Overpriced, Overcrowded Amateur-Night troika that includes New Year's Eve and Mother's Day, but I guess some Hounds have not-so-terrible experiences or can't manage to duck their V-Day duty. So I've started this thread to capture: who's going out, where, and (in a day or two), how was it? Do you bring reduced expectations? Whatever your expectations, how well were they met?

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  1. I have Vday off, as my sommelier services are not highly in demand with the white zin crowd, so my husband and I are going to this dumpy Italian BYO near our house. I can't imagine they'll see much Vday traffic. We're bringing some aged Barolo and maybe an older Barb I've been meaning to knock back. If the service blows, at least we'll have amazing juice.

    Let the chaos commence!

    1. One of us celebrates a b-day this weekend as well, so it is tough to always follow common sense and stay in. We tend to go back and forth among going out to dinner (and being disappointed almost every time), cooking at home and getting take out sushi. This year we are back in the go out cycle and are hoping to better the terrible experience we had at harvest several years ago on V-Day. We are actually dipping our toes into these waters twice.

      Tonight we are meeting friends at Les Zygomates (for the 1st time in 8 years or so). Tomorrow we will stay local in the neighborhood at Garden at the Cellar as they are taking reservations for V-Day and doing a fixed menu which looks promising without being a total gouge at $50/pp.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Gabatta

        Les Zyg was great. Food, service and atmosphere were all excellent and having a plentiful list of reasonably priced wines (while still maintaining a full bar) doesn't hurt. I will need to make sure I don't wait 8 years to go again.

        I forgot about the raw bar there. Both the quality and presentation were top notch. We sampled some Island Creek's, lobster tail, peel & eat shrimp (huge but cooked perfectly) and clams. All were delicious. Starters included the mussels, pate, frisee salad and french onion soup. All were outstanding. The egg on the frisee was poached perfectly, and the soup was extremely flavorful and avoided the usual molten hunk of cheese with bland liquid underneath trap. While not living up to the impossibly high standards set by Hammersley's, the cassoulet was very good. The tagine braised lamb shank with harissa was memorable as well. Everyone enjoyed the meal very much, and it was served at a relaxed pace.

        We will see if the Garden can do as well this evening. For lunch today I surprised my wife with a lobster roll from Belle Isle, served in the car after picking her up from a nail appointment. She declared it her new favorite roll in Boston and it would be touch to disagree. The roll was bursting with tail and claw meat (the car needs a bit of cleaning now). These were the most generous portions of fresh lobster I have seen in quite awhile. We will definitely be going back there soon. All other lobster rolls in the immediate Boston area are playing second fiddle in our eyes.

        Les Zygomates Wine Bar & Bistro
        129 South St, Boston, MA 02111

        1. re: Gabatta

          I have found Les Zyg to be consistently fine over the years. The wine program isn't everything it once was, but solid bartending otherwise helps. That raw bar is comparatively new, less than three years old, if memory serves, and a nice addition as well.

        2. re: Gabatta

          The Garden was fine on Sunday night, not great, but all things considered about as much as one can reasonably expect on v-day. Per usual, the food was good to very good, while the service and bar tending was piss poor.

          Wife's beet risotto was the standout app, while my ricotta gnudi was fantastic in the entree's. Pork belly app and salmon entree were ok, but nothing special. Desserts were both unremarkable. We left full and satisfied, but overall not a great value. We knew that going in though and chose to go anyway. It was worth keeping within walking distance.

          Holiday or not, they really need to improve the service consistency.

          Probably back to cooking at home next year.

        3. I think we will be going out for dinner Valentine's Day; having nothing to do with the fact that it is a "special day" and everything to do with the fact that we someone to watch our toddler that night. The good news is we will be out early, by 6ish, so hopefully we will not be impacted by the crowds. I have no interest in prix-fixe and/or special menus so I'm seeking out spots that will offer their usual suspects. I posted previously about being in the Brighton (actually Allston) area and so I think we're going to try Carlos' italian or Washington Street Tavern. Depends what we are in the mood for.....

          1. I've found that hole in the wall ethnic is the way to go. Not terribly romantic, but good food.

            1 Reply
            1. re: trufflehound

              Amen to "hole in the wall ethnic"! Usually interesting and fun, sometimes great. We did our V-day dinner at Tepthida Khymer in Lowell. Not quite a hole-in-the-wall but almost. Wonderful food! Buy-an-extra-order-to-take-home good! Even Better? Dinner for 2 prix fixe at $39.99, and an additional $5 off with coupon! That includes app, soup/salad, entree, desert, and beer/wine for two! It's a keeper for us.

            2. Bukowski's followed by Jackie Greene at the Paradise.