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World's Most Romantic Restaurants

World's Most Romantic Restaurants

Credit: Courtesy of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Contrary to what your eighth-grade girlfriend may have told you, romance isn't all about flowers and heart-shaped candies. But the word "romantic" has become so sappy and overmarketed that it's often tough to remember its actual meaning (we prefer the Byronic sense of "remote, adventurous, mysterious"). And sadly, many so-called romantic restaurants rely on the same clichéd formulas whether you're in Mexico or Manhattan: bland decor, food-as-afterthought, stuffy waiters, and the inescapable strolling violinist/guitarist/accordionist (does anyone actually enjoy that?). So this year, we'll help you reclaim romance, one mesmerizing meal at a time. Our 12 restaurant picks from around the world have all the right elements—a seductive view, an unhurried atmosphere, terrific food—but never veer into sentimentality. Because style mixed with subtlety is a more potent aphrodisiac than straight saccharine.


La Zebra

Tulum, Mexico


Why Go: It's less hippie—and more chic—than similar beachside cantinas along this sleepy stretch of the Riviera Maya.

A Side of Atmosphere: Imagine your most effortlessly stylish boho buddies opened a hotel on a prime piece of Tulum beachfront (with the requisite straw-topped huts and curving palms strung with colorful hammocks). In the platform restaurant, where candle-filled chandeliers swing from the thatched ceiling, you'll get almost as buzzed from the tickling trade winds and sultry salsa beats as you will from the potent margaritas.

Appetite for Seduction: The back-to-basics menu revolves around a single element: fire. A starter of spicy, seafood-based "firestone" soup — named for the single red-hot rock that's added to make it simmer — is ladled tableside. The most succulent entrées, like the slow-cooked, beer-marinated lamb wrapped in banana leaves, come from the brick-lined barbecue pit.

The Hot Seat: Couples gravitate toward the single table on the stand-alone circular platform: It's under palm trees, away from the restaurant and even closer to the electric-blue Caribbean.


Sugar Mill Restaurant

Tortola, British Virgin Islands


Why Go: Carved from the evocatively weathered remnants of a 17th-century sugar mill, this small, standout restaurant is as alluring as any beachfront spot.

A Side of Atmosphere: Candlelight bounces off stone walls in the open-sided dining room, which is surrounded by a dense, jungly garden: You'll feel as though you've stumbled across your own secret hiding spot.

Appetite for Seduction: The owners, food writers Jeff and Jinx Morgan, serve some of the Caribbean's most elegant eats. Typically West Indian ingredients like shrimp, conch, and pork get punched up with Thai chiles, white truffles, wasabi, and morello cherries.

The Hot Seat: You'll have the best view of the dining room if you sit in front of the waterfall, which was fashioned from the mill's original copper cauldron.


Eagle's Eye

Golden, British Columbia, Canada


Why Go: When you dine at 7,700 feet, you look down — not up — at the Rockies. And being together above the clouds will leave you breathless (well, not literally, we hope).

A Side of Atmosphere: Although this rugged A-frame restaurant sits at roughly the same altitude as a low-flying jetliner, the ride up (15 minutes by gondola) is significantly more pleasant than being crammed in coach. In the main room, floor-to-ceiling windows and a classic Pacific Northwest palette (honeyed timber, rugged stone, clean lines) let the view steal the show.

Appetite for Seduction: To find fodder for his straightforward, seasonal menus, Chef Alain Soret culls the provinces for their best ingredients: BC coho salmon, Québec duck liver, Alberta beef, and Rocky Mountain bison.

The Hot Seat: Although the panorama looks lovely from every part of the room, tables 36 and 37 are closest to the fireplace.


Wheatleigh

Lenox, Mass.


Why Go: You want to experience the gilded life at this 19th-century mansion-turned-hotel, whose palazzo stylings (grand columns, urbane gardens, sweeping mountain views) and European staff seem more suited to the Loire Valley or Tuscany than the bosky Berkshires.

A Side of Atmosphere: Inside, changeable mountain light streams through large windows, and the eclectic, contemporary-leaning decor has an understated grace. Everything is well considered — from the vaulted plaster ceilings to the creamy carpets — without being fussy.

Appetite for Seduction: The carefully choreographed tasting menu changes each night and might incorporate king salmon sashimi, locally sourced lamb, and Canadian foie gras topped with wine gelée and savory marmalade. Compared to similar sit-downs in Manhattan, the $155 price tag seems downright reasonable.

The Hot Seat: Try for window tables 35 or 45 in the restaurant's portico room, a former outdoor courtyard where massive glass panels have been ingeniously fitted between bronze columns.


Ambrosia

Santorini, Greece


Why Go: If Apollo and Daphne were sill around today, we'd find them at this rooftop taverna, sipping crisp, minerally white wine and watching the sun turn Santorini's sunken caldera into a shimmering mass of color.

A Side of Atmosphere: This small cave house, which is carved into the side of the Oia cliffs, is uncompromisingly atmospheric. If you happen to dine during a full moon, the glassy gleam that washes over the sea is spectacular.

Appetite for Seduction: An appetizer of baby calamari sautéed with ouzo and crème fraîche pesto is an updated version of the classic squid salad. Seafood comes daily from the market in Fira, but if you're fished-out, the lamb shank braised with rosemary sauce is worthy of its own epic poem.

The Hot Seat: The two terraces have only 11 tables between them, but it's worth requesting the upper one for its uninterrupted views: Save for a few other diners, you'll have nothing but the twinkling stars for company.


In Pictures: See More of the World's Most Romantic Restaurants



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