Valentine's Day is a month out. Call any of these places now, and not only will you reserve the romantic table your girl craves, you'll also avoid the predatory gougings of ubiquitous mandatory prix-fixe menus. Your options:
79 Macdougal St, between Houston and Bleecker 212.260.0100
Dine up front in the mirrored-ceiling, Pullman car-style dining room (to showcase her beauty), or in back at the darkly be-velveted bar (to hide your ugly).
Check out the menu
38 8th Ave, at Jane; 212.366.6633
Sporting 50 seats and two bars, this bustling, inventive Italian spot's celebrating VD with "Wines of the 90s"; just add the corresponding soundtrack to ensure you get the nookie. The what? The nookie.
The menu's at DellAnima.com
151 E 58th St, between Lexington and 3rd; 212.644.0202
This gilded French resto's high-ceilinged, open dining room still oozes big money'd, 1980s scenesterism -- culminating in an arresting bill you'll come to call "Bright Lights, 2-Fitty".
The menu's at LeCirque.com
Hudson River Cafe
697 East 133rd St, at 12th; 212.491.9111
Hit this way-uptown cafe's heated patio for resplendent views of the GWB, the shores of Jersey, river flotsam, and dear God anything but her eyes.
The menu's at HudsonRiverCafe.com
121 W. 10th St, near Greenwich; 212.645.0018
Hit this intimate, ivy-frilled Aussie spot for dishes like herb-crusted rack of lamb and prosciutto papadelli, which doesn't sound very Down-Under, until you remember that Australia is a nation of convicts.
Check out the menu
206 Spring St, between Sullivan and 6th; 212.653.0100
Fiamma's modern takes on Italian classics are always served prix fixe, but they don't force you to choose from their special "holiday" menu. Choose from dishes like suckling pig, veal cheeks, and baby octopus (but not baby octopussy, the forbidden delight that got Roger Moore canned).
The menu's at BRGuestRestaurants.com
900 Broadway, at 20th; 212.461.4300
85 10th Ave, between 15th and 16th; 212.400.6699
Hit Craft for intricately prepared plates (pan-roasted scallops, roasted foie grois, etc) or Craftsteak for a menu fetishistically categorized by age/feed/breed -- which if applied to your date, would read "don't know/chicken salad/no thanks, but sex sounds good".
The menus are at CraftRestaurant.com
9 Jones St, between W 4th and Bleecker; 212.929.6868
On V-Day, this modish Greenwich Village bistro's supplementing its regular menu with a captivating rack of Colorado lamb, prompting your date to testily quip "I'm up here".
The menu's at PerillaNYC.com
209 E 49th St, at 3rd; 212.751.4545
This skylit Mexican seafood joint also boasts an adjacent tacqueria serving top-notch street meat. Because if she'll put up with a la carte...
The menu's at ModernMexican.com