Lovers' feasts

Amadeus Cafe & Patisserie 122 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-665-8767; $$$: Amadeus is a unique restaurant designed after the old-world cafes of Vienna. A variety of traditional dishes from Central Europe are offered, as well as desserts and a unique list of wines and beers. Enjoy candlelit dinners and live classical music on the weekends. Family owned and operated for almost 20 years.

Antonio's in the Park 15117 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe Park; 313-821-2433; $: This romantic little Italian restaurant has all the Old World charm of a courtyard café in Rome. The menu has pastas, thick, rich soups and to-die-for specials. The atmosphere is so relaxing that slow service would seem like a gift.

Assaggi 330 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-584-3499; $$$: Assaggi's Mediterranean dishes include wood-fired pizza, antipasti and sea scallops with hand-rolled pasta. A full wine list and a full bar are available to accompany your lunch or dinner.

Atlas Global Bistro 3111 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-2241: Voted by our readers as the best affordably expensive restaurant (under $50 per diner), Atlas has the vibe of a hip city eatery thanks to its striking interiors, knowledgeable service and international cuisine. In Atlas' quirky kitchen, ingredients don't necessarily remain with their cuisine-of-origin, and the fusion fare can be at once exotic and down-home, mixing it up with lemongrass, cactus, Gorgonzola, caviar and black-eyed peas. And Atlas simply oozes hip urban cachet, nestled in the Addison Building — a 1905 beaux arts structure that once flirted with the wrecking ball — where it sports high ceilings, polished floors and street views of Detroit's historic Brush Park.

Baker's Keyboard Lounge 20510 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-345-6300; $$: The world's oldest jazz club, featuring big band and jazz jam sessions and a great late-night dining menu, with metropolitan Detroit's finest local musicians live every weekend. A perennial winner of our best jazz club categories, if your date likes jazz, you have to take her to Baker's Keyboard Lounge on Sunday to catch a performance by the Christopher Key Quartet. Get there early and score one of the horseshoe-shaped booths — just right for two!

Bistro 222 22266 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-792-7500; $$: Michael Chamas' bistro, open almost a year-and-a-half, is well-positioned to attract diners with his imaginative Californian-Italian cuisine and reasonable prices. The walls of his intimate room, which seats 60, are decorated in subdued shades and accented with dark wooden panels. Much of the fare is assertively spiced, such as the zesty and generous portion of bruschetta topped with tomatoes, onions and peppers, and small scallops sautéed in a tangy lemon-garlic sauce and artfully presented in three scallop shells. Most of the entrées are $15 or $16, a surprisingly low price considering the quality of the ingredients and the careful thought that has gone into their creation and presentation. All desserts, except for the ethereal, ultra-light house-made tiramisu, come from the respectable outside supplier, Sweet Street Desserts. 

Bistro Bordeau 3315 Auburn Rd., Auburn Hills; 248-852-3410; $$: Executive chef Kipp Bourdeau cooks up innovative bistro-style cuisine, including dishes such as crab-and Asiago-crusted whitefish with sautéed spinach and grain mustard vinaigrette as well as maple-and-pecan-cured salmon. Check out their Valentine's Day special dinner for two which includes a cheesy spinach dip, lobster stuffed tenderloin and two glasses of champagne priced at just 29.99 to impress your date without breaking the bank. The decor is inviting, and the circle-in-a-square dining room offers many opportunities for privacy. No smoking.

Café Cortina 30715 W. 10 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-474-3033; $$$$: Since Café Cortina was started in 1976, its reputation as a true ristorante has spread. In today's fast-paced environment, this restaurant continues to present the true heart and soul of Italy, but at prices that are more Lamborghini than Fiat.

Café Felix 204 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-662-8650; $$: Authentic European-style café, serving pastries, breads and cakes baked fresh on-site, as well as European wines, beers and liquors. They serve a full breakfast, omelets, crepes, soups, salads and tapas. Call for information on their special Valentine's Day prix-fixe menu. No smoking. Handicap accessible.

Café Zola 112 W. Washington, Ann Arbor; 734-769-2020; $$$: With tasteful art for sale on the brick walls, large picture windows fronting the colorful pedestrian traffic on Washington Street, and, in season, a sizable outdoor patio, Café Zola is one of the more comfortable restaurants in Ann Arbor. Mains have included spaghetti and meatballs marinara, lamb chops a la Turque, flat-iron steak with garlicky chimichurri sauce from the Pampas, and ahi tuna in a sesame-seed crust with wasabi butter, sugar snap peas, and that crunchy coconut rice. The wine list, a thoughtful if somewhat pricey one, contains a handful of relatively obscure bottles in the high 20s to the middle 30s before it disappears into the stratosphere.

Cliff Bell's 2030 Park Ave., 313-961-2543: $$: The gloriously art deco splendor of Cliff Bell's recalls the 1930s. This night spot smacks of a more sensuous era, when patrons haunted such smoky little cabarets with relish. With their nattily attired staff and live jazz music by Nicole New and the Satin Sheets for V Day, it'll be hard not to get lost in the illusion of Detroit's bustling past. With everything from a standard fillet of beef tenderloin to cassoulet, the French-inspired eclectic food menu speaks for itself. 

Coach Insignia 200 Renaissance Center, 62 Floor, Detroit; 313-567-2622; $$$: This eclectic chophouse is the United States' second-highest restaurant and is located at the top of the GM Global Renaissance Center. Coach Insignia features incomparable food, great service and a world-class wine list to accompany a panoramic view of Detroit and our Canadian neighbors. Handicap accessible; dress code: no jeans.

D'Amato's 222 S. Sherman Dr., Royal Oak; 248-584-7400; $$: Neighborhood Italian joint with eclectic and "from scratch" fare. A fresh Caesar or Caprese salad will run you $6, and a pizza with feta, grape tomatoes, roasted banana peppers, kalamata olives and more is $8. Tender, fluffy gnocchi of ricotta and spinach come surrounded with a rich sauce, and veal saltimbocca arrives on soft layers of rapini and gnocchi, resting in a silky Marsala sauce. There are many more beef, chicken and seafood entrées, and 30 glasses and 60 bottles of wine to wash them down with. What's more, there's often live music (call for schedule) and legendary Royal Oak martini bar Goodnight Gracie is connected to the restaurant.

The Earle 121 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-0211; $$$: Illuminated with candlelight, The Earle is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner for two. On the weekends, you can enjoy live music during your meal. The menu includes French- and Italian-inspired entrées that will satisfy whatever you are craving.

Eve: The Restaurant 415 N. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-222-0711; $$: Being a smaller restaurant, Eve offers a very intimate and romantic atmosphere. Don't let the coziness fool you, the cuisines are filled with huge flavor. It's no surprise that Eve Aronoff, owner and chef, was a contestant on the reality show Top Chef because she focuses on creating her ingredients from scratch. No short-cuts are made when preparing the food, ensuring every bite to be filled with savory flavors.

Fiamma Grille 380 S. Main St., Plymouth; 734-416-9340; $$$: Right next door to Compari's on the Park, Fiamma Grille might be for those looking for something grander than hard-line Italian fare. Boasting a sleek and retro-accented ambience, with art on the walls that's better than most, this joint has steaks and seafood dishes to boast about.

Forté 201 S. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-594-7300; $$: Originally an upscale and expensive dining destination, a dramatic retooling kept the talented staff, lowered prices, and came up with fare that is more fun and less fussy: everyday food that's a little bit special, designed by their fine-dining chef, who does comfort foods with an unexpected twist. A good example is "Firecracker Chicken," a whole bird marinated for 24 hours before it's deep-fried and plated upon wasabi mashed potatoes. The wine list is simple and unintimidating.

French Gourmet 23421 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-541-1200; $$: Grapevine-wrapped pillars, classical background music and jeweled murals. Entrées prepared to order. Vegetable broth-based French onion soup, bay scallops poached in vermouth. Warm salad of duck confit and lobster. Pastries are beautiful to behold.

Giulio's Cucina Italiana 31735 Plymouth Rd., Livonia; 734-427-9500; $$$: For a romantic mood, try one of the cozy corner booths at this Italian eatery, amid the music and twinkling lights. House specialties include seafood pasta, lamb chops with brandy pepper corn and pasta with crab meat. A special menu gives lovebirds the option of going gluten-free. 

The Hill Seafood & Chop House 123 Kerchaval Ave., Grosse Pointe Farms; 313-886-8101; $$$: Many of the Hill's signature dishes cater to a Reagan-era notion of good eating: surf and turf, lots of blue cheese and bacon in the house salad. Seafood is a strong point: The grilled swordfish is tall and terrific and the calamari appetizer is out of the ordinary. Desserts are quintessentially American: The molten lava cake has a lucious liquid chocolate center. The steaks are the usual cuts: filet mignon, New York strip, porterhouse and ribeye and all are certified Angus beef, char-grilled and prepared to spec, and finished with a burgundy demi glace. The strip is available au poivre. Meat lovers will also find lamb chop finished with rosemary balsamic natural sauce and french pomery mustard, and barbecued pork osso bucco.

Hong Hua Fine Chinese Dining 27925 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-489-2280; $$: At Hong Hua, widely regarded excellent, diners will enjoy the the fare without being knocked off their feet. The restaurant's decor has more of a fine-dining than a Chinese feel. It's elegant to look at, with its curving lines of cherry wood and tasteful paintings of flowers. The shredded duck and mushroom soup comes highly recommended. The Szechuan hot and sour soup is another winner, more complex and flavorful than hot, it actually seems a bit sweet. An excellent entrée is eggplant in chili sauce. The mu-shu pork is tasty if not overly interesting, slightly sweet and crisped-up by the shredded cabbage that's used. Dessert can be peppermint or ginger ice cream, or translucent lychees served on ice. Offers a full complement of fried rices, chow meins and lo meins, along with all the dishes found at corner Chinese restaurants throughout America. 

Iridescence 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-237-7711; $$$: Located in the Motor City Casino, Iridescence provides a romantic atmosphere with breathtaking panoramic views of Detroit. The AAA Four Diamond restaurant is on the 17th story of the casino and includes an open kitchen, allowing guests to scope out the busy chefs. The menu is infused with local flavors like Michigan cherries and morel mushrooms. Impress your date by ordering off the award-winning wine list. However, be prepared to possibly pay more for the wine than the food itself. To complete your evening, enjoy the decadent desserts created by Patricia Nash, the 2007 Pastry Chef of the Year.

La Bistecca Italian Grille 39405 Plymouth Rd., Plymouth; 734-254-0400; $$: Serving certified Piedmontese beef, fresh fish, seafood, veal and chops, La Bistecca emphasizes fresh ingredients and impeccable service. Their award-winning tiramisu is not to be missed either. To round out your lovers' feast, see their extensive wine list.

La Dolce Vita 17546 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-865-0331; $$: Tucked away behind a garden gate on Woodward Avenue just north of McNichols, La Dolce Vita has only a cryptic neon sign (reading LDV) to herald its presence. But those who slip behind the building, often for valet parking, can have one of the most romantic, secluded experiences in this urban oasis. Add the friendly, accommodating waitstaff, a well-stocked bar and good food, and you can see why this restaurant is a staff-favorite. Look for their special entrées and desserts on their Valentine's Day menu.

The Lark 6430 Farmington Rd., W. Bloomfield; 248-661-4466; $$$$: This European country inn inspired restaurant offers a peaceful and romantic setting for any couple. The overlooking garden, which includes a fountain and grape trellis, provides a relaxing atmosphere. Going along with the European theme, the menu is filled with an assortment of entrees created with French cooking techniques. Spice up your evening by participating in the themed dinner nights that range from a Mexican Fiesta to a Corleone Soprano dinner.

Luciano's 39091 Garfield Rd., Clinton Twp.; 586-263-6540; $$: Serving fresh, delicious pastas topped with your favorite sauces, Luciano's follows an Old World Italian tradition that specializes in authentic Italian pasta, specialties, wines and desserts. In the northwest corner of Gar-Pointe Plaza.

Maggiano's Little Italy 2089 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-205-1060; $$: Staying true to its word, Maggiano's is designed to replicate an original Italian neighborhood restaurant. Red-checkered table cloths complete the Little Italy appearance. Nobody leaves hungry because the portions are enormous, especially for the price.

The Majestic Café 4124 Woodward Ave.; Detroit; 313-833-9700; $$; Contemporary American and European specialties served in an open, airy setting. Filet mignon with both blue cheese mustard sauce and sun-dried cherry sauce; pork tenderloin stuffed with mango and pistachios with a juniper berry crust and port wine ginger sauce; pasta dishes and salads. Their custom-made Valentine's Day menu features a four-course meal for just $65 per couple and it includes a scrumptious desert platter— peanut butter mousse, apple charlotte, opera cake and a sparkling raspberry fruit shooter— perfect for sharing.

The Melting Pot 888 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-362-2221; 26425 Novi Rd., Novi; 248-347-6358; 309 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-622-0055; $$$: A new way of dining mixed with an old favorite, The Melting Pot brings back the fun of fondue. Dipping an assortment of breads, vegetables and apples in your choice of cheese fondue allows you to dictate your desired taste. The dining experience can get a bit pricey but the dessert makes it worth it. The fruit dipped in chocolate fondue is a crowd favorite and a major hit.

Mon Jin Lau 1515 E. Maple, Troy; 248-689-2332; $$$: Sophisticated but casual chic Asian-deco decor, serving New Asian cuisine that combines the taste of Asia with preparations artfully presented. Great ambience for gourmet Chinese food, with a lively bar for drinks or sushi, as well as cool music and lighting.

No. VI Chop House & Lobster Bar 27000 Sheraton Dr., Novi; 248-305-5210; $$$: As plush a steak and seafood house as can be found in the area, this one offers top-of-the-line fare in a darkly sophisticated setting located in the Crowne Plaza. All of the meats are prime, from the filet mignon to the veal chop. The cocktail lounge offers an alternative with its oysters on the half-shell and impressive lobsters. 

Pasticcio Ristorante 854 Erie St. E., Windsor; 519-253-3329; $$: Voted by our readers as the best Italian restaurant in Windsor's Little Italy in 2002, Pasticcio's serves amazing Italian cuisine, with notable seafood pastas. Friendly atmosphere.

Rattlesnake Club 300 River Place, Detroit; 313-567-4400; $$$$: An upscale restaurant that is located on the Detroit riverfront offers an eclectic mix of surf n' turf cuisines. Steaks are made only with Angus beef and the succulent seafood comes in a huge variety. The view is also amazing; guests can enjoy the scenery of the Detroit skyline as well as the river.

Small Plates 1521 Broadway, Detroit; 313-963-0497; $$: What could be more romantic than nibbling off the same plate? The diminutive dishes run the gamut from hand-cut fries ($4) to pan-seared scallops ($17). And they're so serious about their food, they make almost everything on-site, including the mayo and ketchup. 

Whitney Restaurant 4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-5700; $$$: The 1894 mansion turned restaurant offers a menu filled with unforgettable American flavors. Your date will be impressed with The Whitney's 350-label wine cellar, including local favorites from Traverse City. While the restaurant retains the elegant and refined decor, the Ghost Bar on the third floor appeals to the younger, more casual crowd. Offering live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays, the Ghost Bar provides an exciting nightlife.

Wolfgang Puck Grille 1777 3rd St., Detroit; 313-465-1648; $$$: In the midst of a busy casino, Wolfgang Puck Grille is a perfect getaway to a cozy cabin. Including a fireplace and antlers hanging from the ceiling, guests can enjoy the ambience of a romantic evening for two. The food is Wolfgang Puck's rendition of traditional American food with his own special kick. The food is incomparable and the atmosphere will transport you to peacefulness of the North.

See any inaccuracies in our listings? Let us know! Send an e-mail to [email protected] or call 313-202-8043.