Like a horror-movie villain who always rises for another sequel, no matter how many times he's been burned, maimed and stabbed, Valentine's Day is once again upon us, here to plague us all. The singletons will spend the day in a funk, convinced that all eyes are on them for being the only uncoupled person left on the planet. Those of us with partners will be plagued with our own anxiety: How do we conjure up the perfect date night without completely breaking the bank.
DFW.com Ink is here to help with two romantic dining options, one classy, one trashy (in a good way). One bit of advice, though: Prepare to drop a few more bucks than usual. Even when you think you're getting off scot-free, this holiday finds a way to cost you.
The classy option
The place: Saint-Émilion, the much-beloved, classic French cuisine restaurant in west Fort Worth, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
The atmosphere: Set inside an unassuming cottage on West Seventh Street, Saint-Émilion combines the rustic and the fancy in ways that should appeal to the Euro-snob in all of us. A chalkboard lists the daily specials. The menu is filled with staples of French cuisine, from steak frites to escargot. But that's about as casual as this place gets. The 20 or so tables are elegantly appointed. The noise level is so soft that you can easily eavesdrop on your neighbors' conversation. The owner, Bernard Tronche, is on hand to guide you through the menu and make you feel like a member of an extremely privileged club. In short, Saint-Émilion screams "Refinement."
The food: Simple, elegant and classic. We started with two staples of the French menu, the escargot in an herb and butter sauce and the salad niçoise. The snails, which are topped with a mini puff pastry, were plump and earthy. The sauce was made for dipping bread. The salad didn't exactly reinvent the wheel, but the brandy-infused vinaigrette had a terrific kick. For our main courses, the roasted duck, glazed with honey and served over a bed of spinach, featured a perfectly crispy skin and lusciously tender meat. The daily special of grouper was expertly cooked, though my companion felt the presentation -- it arrives in a simple, herby broth, with tomatoes and zucchini -- was a tad underpowered.
The sweet finish: It wouldn't be Valentine's Day without dessert, right? Saint-Émilion tweaks the classic crème brûlée, adding a hint of rum to its version. (One quibble: Breaking through the burnt-sugar topping requires a hacksaw.) A chocolate and pecan pie served with cappuccino ice cream is nicely done and not nearly as sugary as it might sound.
The damage: None too cheap. We opted for the fixed- price, three-course menu for $45 -- though swapping out the salmon special for grouper cost an extra $5. (Nor can you try the "We'll just order appetizers" approach: Saint-Émilion enforces a minimum $30-per-head rule.) With a glass of wine each, the final bill came to $122, before tip. Translation: Make sure you really like the person you're dining with before you make a reservation.
Did it leave us in the mood for love?: Yes and no. The food was excellent and not as heavy as a lot of French cuisine -- so we were definitely still feeling spry by the end of the night. But we were the youngest people in the room by approximately two decades. Nothing quite kills the libido than visions of a flabby future from consuming all this French food.
The trashy option
The place: Lone Star Oyster Bar, a little slice of beer and bivalve heaven tucked into the Cityview Centre in southwest Fort Worth.
The atmosphere: Roadhouse meets strip center. But the low light and high ceilings create a surprisingly sexy setting .
The food: Oysters, the Viagra of the Sea. The slippery-when-wet aphrodisiac comes in all sorts of permutations here -- raw, baked and Laredo-style. We opted for the half-and-half appetizer ($9.69), six topless raw oysters and six boiled shrimp. Both went down smooth with a dab of cocktail sauce. The oysters Laredo ($10.19 for a half-dozen) were baked oysters topped with melted cheeses, salsa and jalapeños. Not bad, but the raw oysters were so delectable why bury them? The jalapeño wraps -- jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese and nestled inside bacon and a tortilla (fried!) -- was a decadent appetizer and a spicy beginning to what would become a spicier night. After a couple of schooners of Blue Moon ($3.95), we were ready for the check.
The sweet finish: The key lime pie ($2.99) came to the table nearly frozen. It could've been a mood killer, especially when Our Love's in Jeopardy played on the sound system. But we just laughed and made an R-rated joke about the whipped cream.
The damage: About 42 bucks before tip. Oysters ain't cheap, and neither are we.
Did it leave us in the mood for love?: Yep. Lone Star Oyster Bar is a low-key love shack.