Shelfish as aphrodisiacs might be an urban myth, but bringing your date to a ravishing restaurant with ample seafood is a tried and true method of animal attraction.
Photography by Peter Markiw
Spago just celebrated its 15th anniversary with a complete renovation that brightened the walls, opened up the dining area and improved the decor with nostalgic black-and-white photographs of Portugal. There was nothing to change about the popular menu, which offers three seafood plates for sharing. Each will satisfy two hungry appetites — which makes them a great option for Valentine’s Day.
Try the Fisherman’s Plate ($30), which has clams, mussels, scallops, calamari, halibut, a four-ounce steak and two large prawns swimming in a thick, rich rosé sauce. Savour every taste by soaking the rice in the sauce and swirling your fork through the liquid to rescue any bits of scallop or calamari that may be submerged.
For a mix of land and sea creatures, try the pork and clams ($24), a strong companionship served with fried potatoes. Its garlic-and-wine sauce is more like a broth, with a smoky smell from the liberal doses of paprika and cumin. If you still can’t decide, choose the Cataplana platter ($55). It offers a sample of all the seafood choices Spago has to offer, plus some chourico (chorizo) sausage and chicken. (12433 97 St., 780-479-0328) —Steven Sandor
According to the trivia provided on the menu at Vons Steakhouse & Oyster Bar, only one in 1 million of these shellfish survive until adulthood. It’s because the mollusks are delicious. Whether you’re a lover of ocean fare or just getting your feet wet, enter through Vons’ giant mahogany doors and take a seat in the black leather booths for the Buck a Shuck special, available on weekdays between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.
The special offers a choice of nine West Coast oysters ($6 for any six) and three East Coast selections ($12 for six). Novices looking for a lighter taste should try the Kusshi variety, which has a buttery texture and fruity finish; the Royal Miyagi, with a mild brine taste and hint of kiwi; or the Ships Point for its fresh cucumber finish.
For something more robust, slurp up the Cortes Island, a meaty oyster from B.C., or the full-flavoured, deep cup of the Caraquet Bay oyster from New Brunswick.
Every order comes on a bed of shaved ice with lemon slices, horseradish and a selection of sauces. Mix and match your oysters with turmeric pickles, classic basil pesto or Tabasco to cut through the brine. (10309 81 Ave., 780-439-0041, vonssteakhouse.com) —Andrew Paul
Perfect for Two
Sabor Divino is housed in the historical Boardwalk building; the acoustics are perfect for live piano performances on weekends, which are sometimes accompanied by maitre d’ Christian Mena’s sultry singing. The Chilean background of Mena and the Portuguese heritage of chef Adelino Oliveira are reflected in the menu.
The Fruits de Mer platter ($92) is perfect for two. It includes two hefty halves of lobster with a medley of tiger prawns, shrimp, scallops, calamari, mussels and clams tossed in olive oil. The broiled lobster is memorable, but the garlic-seasoned tiger prawns are definitely the life of the party. You can also order smaller portions of shellfish, either a platter of steamed mussels, clams and shrimp Cataplana served in a white wine reduction ($24) or a platter of smoky mussels Espanola ($16) served with steamed vegetables, garlic, cilantro, oregano, olive oil and white wine.
There’s nothing fishy about the dessert (thank goodness) and you must try the Leite Crème “Dona Irene” ($7). The creamy custard is crowned with caramelized sugar and cinnamon. (10220 103 St, 780-757-1114, sabordivino.ca) —Caroline Barlott