February 15, 2012
Looking back at Valentine's Day dining

Lounge make up.jpg

In the restaurant business, Valentine's Day is known as "amateur night." It's the night when a lot of folks new to fine dining go out looking for a little romance, some good food and a pleasant experience. Sure, they might fumble the ball on occasion, like ordering a Diet Coke with sweetbreads, tipping $3 on a $100 ticket because that's all the cash they had left, or leaving behind their doggie bag like half of restaurant diners always seem to do.

But Valentine's is also a valuable night for restaurants. Not only is it an immediate way to take in revenue, it's a big chance to win new and perhaps longtime customers. Those rubes drinking ice water with their meal? They may one day grow up to be true epicures and wine lovers.

Along those lines, I wondered which restaurant really got this. Many restaurants embrace Valentine's Day, but I haven't seen one do it any better than Lounge ON20.

Lounge charcuterie.jpg

Executive chef Pajo Bruich's concept and execution we're brilliant. He came up with a menu that had wit and charm, as well as creative cooking with his now-signature modernist style.

The 6-course prix fixe menu concept was a tour de force. The amuse bouche, for instance, was given the title "Blind date;" the soup was called "Spooning;" the charcuterie was titled "It's complicated;" followed by "the Break-up": hamachi tartare for her and lamb tartare for him; followed by "the Make-up," beautiful grass-fed rib eye; the dessert was a dark chocolate cremeux with peanut butter ice cream dubbed "the perfect match."

Just look at some of the photos here (credit: Donahue Photography), including the dazzling charcuterie plate (above) created by chef de cuisine Mike Ward, the steak at the top, and the dessert below.

Lounge dessert.jpg

Valentine's Day may be amateur night at some restaurants, but it was nothing but smart and professional at Lounge ON20. It look like a tremendous culinary achievement and, more than likely, a way to win plenty of loyal customers well into the future. Below is a shot of the actual menu.

Lounge menu.jpg

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.

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