The J-List: A failproof Valentine’s date in the South Bay
Valentines Day is near, and while some may not want acknowledge this “Hallmark Holiday” it can also be a day genuinely set aside for a loved one. As a twentysomething in the South Bay, I have been on my share of bad dates in awkward settings. My mission is to relieve the stress for Valentine dates this year with a short list of failproof spots. Even if the date itself is a bust, you’ll at least enjoy a great meal and drink when you follow these tips.
Mediterraneo Kitchen & Bar. Mediterraneo is located right on Pier Avenue in Hermosa and has a variety of amazing little tapas and a large craft beer menu. The tapas are great for interacting with a date through the sharing of food. You can really get to know someone through their taste buds. I advise going to dinner here early, think 6 p.m., to avoid the Pier Ave. drinking crowd. That could put quite the damper on the romance.
Great bites to try for first timers include the pan roasted salmon, lamb brochettes and arancini. The Arancini is a fried risotto with smoked mozzarella, a perfect bite option for the vegetarian diners.
W’s China Bistro. W’s is a great location for a relaxing dinner in Redondo Beach. The restaurant’s ambiance is an easy blend of casual and classy. You can dress up or dress a bit down and still feel comfortable eating here. The food is amazing, with generous portions for affordable prices.
Great menu options include the moo shu pork, roast duck a la Peking and the grilled vegetables with Asian spices. There are a number of dim sum starters that you and your date can share. Just watch out for the garlic heavy items — not enough after dinner mints in the world can take away the potency of too much garlic.
(If you’re feeling nervous before the date, help yourself to a drink at the bar, which is smartly located inside the restaurant away from the main entrance).
Old Venice. Not enough people have experienced the rustic yet sophisticated Old Venice in Manhattan Beach. True to the name, Old Venice really does feel like a restaurant nestled in the streets of Venezia. This is another restaurant you can go a bit casual but the entrees are classic Italian treats. The tables are small, which creates an intimate setting between you and your date. Definitely try the house wine; it’s an Old Venice specialty.
Old Venice Valentine’s Day special will include a soup or salad starter, an option in entrée choice including sea bass, lamb and gorgonzola filet and, to finish, and a “sweetaly dessert for two.”
Hudson House. If you haven’t been here before, it’s time to go to this Redondo Beach hotspot now. Almost right on the corner of Beryl and PCH, if you don’t drive slowly, you might just miss it. It can get a little crowded in its tight space, but the environment is always lively and friendly. Not your average drunk bar, it’s a much cozier environment where friends and dates alike can have fun. The lighting is dim, which can create an element of romance.
A must sip is the Bitter Red cocktail. This is a cocktail that isn’t at many bars, a combination of smoky flavor from House 12 single barrel bourbon, the sweetness of blood orange puree, that tart bite from blood orange bitters and the fresh addition of cucumber. You may not be able to drive after a few cocktails at Hudson House but at least there isn’t a shortage of cabs along PCH.
Abigaile’s. Not to be confused with Ocean Bar (which is located right above), Abigaile’s is a slightly more “date-like” environment that doesn’t get as crowded as nearby Pier Avenue bars. Abigaile’s cocktails come in rustic brass steel cups, which can keep a drink cold all night long. The specialty cocktails include options in spicy, sour and unusual. Have fun experimenting, since all are equally tasty.
Cocktail must try: the Simons18. Variations of this cocktail can be found in a number of upscale bars but they never quite hit the mark like Abigaile’s. This drink can quickly creep up on you — the taste of alcohol is hidden behind the delicious flavors of ginger beer and fresh lime.
The Strand House. This upscale Manhattan Beach bar is a date spot classic. The Strand House overlooks the ocean and is offering Valentines Day specials right now. The Strand Bar offers a number of specialty cocktails and a specially selected wine menu. There is an unwritten dress code for after hours, I suggest dressing up for this spot (but seeing how it’s Valentines Day, wearing your best should go without saying).
This is somewhere you must make reservations in advance, although almost goes without saying, since it’s Valentines Day. Critics may argue that The Strand House attracts an elitist crowd, but you really can’t compete with the view. Why fight it when you can enjoy it?
Events? Tips? Thoughts? Email the.j.list[at]easyreadernews.com