If the idea of heading to a crowded restaurant with an uninspiring prix-fixe menu is enough to send you into couple’s therapy, consider spending an intimate night at home this Valentine’s Day. We’ve tasked a top chef (who is also, coincidentally, a Top Chef) and a fabulous interior designer with creating the perfect menu and setting for an at-home evening of romance.
“Think about cooking something that triggers some kind of memory—like something you had on your first date,” says Hung Huynh, the winner of Top Chef’s third season and Executive Chef at two of New York’s hottest kitchens—Catch and newly opened The General. “Just make sure it’s light, refreshing and healthy, so that after you won’t have garlic breath or feel too weighed down to get wild,” he says.
At both of his restaurants, Huynh emphasizes that having a sexy setting is almost as important as the food itself—the same should apply when you’re dining at home.
To create the same romantic ambiance you find in restaurants, stick to a single principal: great lighting. “Without good lighting the mood is never right,” says Mariela Alvarez of iCrave, the design studio behind the interiors of both Catch and The General. “Buy a big chandelier to create sparkle in the room. Or, just replace the lightbulbs in your current chandlier with a low-voltage light bulb. Use a 20-watt instead of your typical 60-watt.”
Aside from lighting, Alvarez recommends covering the whole room with candles and small wild flowers like lilac or daisies. “They’re different—roses and orchids have been used too much,” she says. “People might think candles and flowers are cliché but it really hits the spot when you want to have a romantic experience at home.”
Below, Huynh shares recipes for an elegant, easy Valentine’s Day meal.
“The Ribbons of Tuna have a very clean, light and delicate flavor and is a very healthy option to start your meal with. The sea bass is also a great choice because bass is naturally very light. Although the cooking technique for the sea bass is quite simple, the flavors and the end result is fabulous.”
The Ribbons of Tuna
1 cup soy sauce
5 ounces of mirin
1/2 ounce of sesame oil
1 Tbl of sugar
2 Tbl of rice vinegar
1 pound of sushi quality tuna, thick julienne
1 asian pear, thick julienne
1 avocado, diced
3 Tbls of sliced scallions
*Take half the sauce and marinate for about 5 minutes.
*Remove the tuna and the pear, and put in a serving bowl.
*Add avocado and drizzle 2 tablespoons of reserved sauce.
*Sprinkle with sesame seeds and sliced scallions.
Baked Bourbon Sea Bass or Salmon
2 pieces of 6-8 ounce portions of fish
2 ounces of miso
2 ounces of maple syrup
1/2 ounce of bourbon
1/2 Tablespoon chili paste
1/2 Tablespoon of minced ginger
1/2 Tablespoons of minced garlic
1 ounce sake or white wine
Let marinate for 2 hours.
Bake in 375 oven, until fish is nice and caramelized and fish is flaky.
1 pound green beans, cleaned and cut in half
1 red pepper, jullienne
1 onion, sliced julienne
2 tablspoons of oil