Let’s face it. The tried-and-true methods of celebrating Valentine’s Day have outlived their usefulness. A romantic restaurant? Forget it. The prices have been jacked up for awful prix fixe dinners, featuring things like sweet pink cocktails, cherry Jell-O, and heart-shaped cupcakes. Even if you decide to splurge, the noise level – often in excess of 90 decibels – prevents you from anything like romantic conversation. “I love you” sounds much better whispered than shouted.
Candy in a giant, heart-shaped box spells obesity in big chocolate letters to many. The symbolism may be appreciated, but the calories and refined sugar are not.
But stop and think for a minute. What kind of restaurant treats Valentine’s Day as if it were any other day of the year? What kind of restaurant allows you to partake of the romantic symbolism of hearts without all the empty calories? Restaurants that serve animal hearts! Here are eight suggestions for a real foodie Valentine’s Day dinner.
1. The barbecued beef-heart brochettes called anticuchos are a prominent street food in Lima. So head for Peruvian favorite Lima Limon for a superb version, served with a corn cob with humongous kernels (size matters!), boiled potatoes, and kick-ass hot sauce. If you want, you can also share the ceviche called Peruvian Viagra, too. 94-20 Roosevelt Avenue, Queens, 718-651-5002
2. The logo at Happy Family in Flushing features a cuddly baby lamb with a bow in its hair, and guess what? The café specializes in lamb, including cumin-dusted kebabs of sheep heart, and – also in a romantic vein, if you’re so inclined – testicles. 36-35 Main Street, Queens, 718-888-8748
3. Tierras Centro Americanas specializes in Guatemalan food, including revolcado, a thick, brown stew that conjoins an odd combination of meats in its savory depths: pork chunks and cow heart. 87-52 168th Street, Queens, 718- 206-1457
4. Folks were somewhat freaked out when Soba Totto hit town a few years back, a real Japanese yakitori parlor that featured every part of the chicken but the cluck. Sternums were on the menu – cooked over special bamboo charcoal — and so were chicken hearts. Which anatomically resemble miniature human hearts. Yikes!211 East 43rd Street, 212-557-8200
5. Tiny Hong Kong café A-Wah offers a myriad of clay-pot casseroles, among them one deploying pig hearts. As an added bonus, the dog-legged interior with checked green tablecloths is romantic, in a utilitarian sort of way. And be assured you can converse at normal volume levels.5 Catherine Street, 212-925-8308
6. For the perfect West Village date, perhaps a stop at Lima’s Taste on Christopher Street is in order. At this Peruvian refectory, you can enjoy cow heart anticuchos as as app, sided with potatoes and a spectacular green hot sauce. For dessert, don’t neglect the passon fruit mousse. 122 Christopher Street, 212-242-0010
7. The Silk Road wends through kebab country, and nominally Azerbaijani Café Sarmish tenders a spectacular list of kebabs cooked over real lump charcoal. The chicken hearts look somewhat comical lined up on the skewer, but once cooked, these tiny circulatory muscles smell smoky enough to attract the fire department. 1162 Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-421-4119
8. Odd man out in the Batali/Bastianich empire is Casa Mono, long the city’s freakiest tapas parlor. Therein wonderfully enlarged duck hearts are served with fabada, an Asturian bean stew, referring to the province of Asturias in Spain. 125 East 17th Street, 212-253-2773