In this most romantic of months, find a new and novel dinner option pour deux in your corner of the Valley.
The Bourbon Cellar (pictured above)
Opened: October 2018
Relocated a few months ago to a tony North Scottsdale strip mall, this steak-centric eatery fills the bill for a splurge date night, if only for the presence of ostensibly aphrodisiac oysters on the half-shell (market price; $21 on my visit). Piled on ice to remind them of their Alaska origins, the dozen “Blue Rocky” oysters are served with sides of horseradish, an addictive house-made pickled scallion and shallot sauce and an equally good cocktail sauce. The filet mignon ($30) stands out among the entrées, but the Cellar also specializes in game meats, like a hearty elk burger ($18). The wasabi deviled eggs ($8) are a not-to-be-missed, sinus-clearing treat, but before you order them off the appetizer menu, be aware that one also comes speared to the top of each burger and sandwich.
Must try: Maybe nothing on the menu will break down your defenses faster than the pulled pork sandwich ($15), topped with sweet slaw and peach-bourbon barbecue sauce, both house-made.
23623 N. Scottsdale Rd., 480-595-5868, thebourboncellar.com
Galeto Brazilian Steakhouse
Opened: December 2018
February’s cup overflows with candy hearts, cupid’s arrows and romantic date nights, from eager-to-impress first dates to the relaxed excursions of longtime lovers. Provided both parties are carnivores, either type of date can be served by a Brazilian churrasco feast at this quiet, tasteful new meat market, with grilled flesh relentlessly brought to the table on skewers and carved for one price ($39.95 per adult). Tread lightly with the buffet/salad bar starters; once you flip your little round token from red to green, you’ll need plenty of tummy space for slice after slice of meat: juicy picanha (sirloin), fraldinha (flank steak), ribeye, pork ribs, lamb, bacon-wrapped chicken and beef (for me, an over-salted misstep), beef ribs and perhaps the most tender filet I’ve ever eaten.
Must try: If you dare, find room for the flan-like budin ($8), bathed in a maple-esque caramel sauce.
825 N. 54th St., Chandler , 480-744-0130, galeto.com
Low Key Piano Bar
Opened: November 2018
The atmosphere at this Westgate outpost of the downtown Tempe singalong saloon isn’t really all that low-key. Dual ivory-ticklers, sometimes accompanied by a drummer, hammer out raucous covers of ABBA, Queen and other rock standards while the crowd joins in. Meanwhile, the menu offers unsubtle but not unflavorful grub. There’s creativity in the appetizers, like the LK Sweet and Spicy Shrimp and Calamari ($13.99) garbed in “our signature LK secret sauce” which leans more to the spicy than the sweet. The chipotle aioli on the blackened salmon sandwich ($14.99) also nicely brings the heat to a formidable slab of fish. The braised short rib grilled cheese ($12.99) features a savory melted-cheese combo and rib meat, marred only slightly by fatty and superfluous bacon.
Must try: Marinara, mozzarella and more dress the pizza fries ($9.99), great for picking at while listening.
6770 N. Sunrise Blvd., Glendale, 623-322-4003, lowkeypianobar.com
George Yang’s Chinese Cuisine
Opened: November 2018
In early 20th-century America, it was considered hip and exotic for a guy to take a gal on a “chop suey date.” You can preserve this tradition at George Yang’s third location in the Valley, in the North-Central space formerly occupied by the venerable Golden Phoenix. For my taste, this place offered the most balanced date night experience; the snazzy, modern appointments give it elegance without losing the comfortable, cordial atmosphere of a neighborhood Chinese joint. The menu consists of standards like pot stickers ($7.99) and a tasty beef chow fun ($13.99), which seems equal parts noodles, love and oil. Most flamboyant was George’s Bird Nest ($15.99), with shrimp, squid, scallops and veggies in a fine gingery gravy, sitting in a fried-noodle “nest” and perched in turn atop crunchy, bright-green broccoli.
Must try: The New York-style egg roll ($3.99) is a muscular specimen, stuffed with pork, shrimp and a delicious hint of peanut butter.
6048 N. 16th St., 602-368-2688, georgeandsonsasiancuisine.com