Ah yes, my friends, it is true. I gave in to the temptation of being absolutely wined, dined, and romanticized on Valentine’s Day for the first time ever. Justin and I have visited many restaurants in our almost full year of dating. But one restaurant has stood out and been extra special since the very beginning: Tiny’s & The Bar Upstairs.
This is the place where we had our very first date. Where we had our first awkward hug, and first nervous conversation. So I found it absolutely adorable that he made our Valentine’s Day dinner reservations there. We took the express bus into Manhattan so we could both overly indulge in both food and booze for the occasion. And we (both of us a little OCD and overly punctual) arrived about an hour before our 6:00 reservation. But that was good, that’s what we wanted.
We picked out a bar/restaurant – Distilled – only a few blocks away from Tiny’s to have our pre-dinner drinks.
These were two of the most excellent and expertly concocted drinks I have ever tasted: Justin’s Mead Americano on the left, and my Franklin Fizz on the right. The Mead Americano was described on the menu as Carroll’s Mead, Aperol, Spring 44 Gin, Grapefruit Bitters Charged in House, and the Franklin Fizz as Crapes, Plum Bitters, Angostura Bitters, Lime, Reposado Tequila, Toasted Lager, and Egg White. I’m quickly realizing that I am obsessed with the frothy lightness of egg white cocktails, so I plan on drinking/creating as many of them as possible over the next couple of months. The flavors of both of these drinks were outrageous and glorious. And not to mention the cumin spiced popcorn in the background… I only allowed myself a couple of pieces to taste, but I could have easily devoured a gallon tub of this stuff. Distilled, I cannot award you a full rating based only on my bar experience, but I am excited to return for a full meal and confident that it will be a wonderful one.
Ok, so 6:00 rolled around and we headed over to Tiny’s. It was cute to be back there. Justin and I were both disappointed by only two things that happened here, so I want to get them out of the way now. Firstly, Justin had asked for the booth table by the front entrance – the same table we had sat at for our first date – when he made our reservation, and was told it would be ready for him, but it was not. And secondly, the restaurant had a special Valentine’s Day prix fixed menu that Justin wasn’t sure if he wanted to opt for. He was told both the regular and Valentine’s Day menus would be options for us, but instead only the regular dinner menu was actually available to us. Phew, bad part over.
To drink, Justin and I both opted for the King Henrik cocktail: Michter’s Rye, Kronan Punsch, Fresh Lemon, Egg White (there it is again!), and Cherry Bitters. Very yummy, but not as good as the Franklin Fizz I was still drooling over.
Appetizers: first the smoked mackerel pate and burrata came out together.
The burrata was ok – maybe I’m just turning into a total burrata bitch. I mean there was nothing at all wrong with it, but it just wasn’t the best thing I ate during the meal. Let me use the phrase here: HOLY MACKREL! Now, that stuff was so good. And the pickled vegetables on the side were perfection.
Our third appetizer (yes, we got three) was the steak tartare:
This was a major highlight of the meal. The portion was so generous, and the caviar toast was so buttery and flavorful. The filet mignon was so rich and fresh and amazing. I want more of this.
Next, the entrees: Justin’s being the duck breast, and mine being the sweet potato gnudi.
Amazing and amazing. The duck was cooked perfectly, the toasted orzo was addictive (I found myself pinching up the last little pieces with my bare hands), and the fennel salad – something I don’t typically love – I loved. The gnudi was sweet and savory and light and heavy all at once. The actual balls were seriously somehow fluffy and so rich and heavy at the same time; I can’t describe it. It was nutty and sweet and perfect. I want more of this, too. During our meal, we went with individual glasses of wine – I let Justin pick and he did a pretty awesome job, although I have no idea what I drank.
We obviously couldn’t pick just one dessert, either, so we continued with our theme of Valentine’s day gluttony, opting for the chocolate mousse and vanilla flan:
The mousse was nutella-ey and crunchy and thick, and the flan was caramel drenched and creamy. We also ordered one each of the 10 year and 30 year Tawny Port wine, wanting to compare the two side by side. Unfortunately (that’s sarcasm) they had run out of the 10 year, and could only give us two glasses of the 30, for which they did not charge us the extra. I still don’t know how the two ports compare side by side, but I do know that the 30 year Taylor Fladgate Tawny Port wine is really, really delicious.
Aside from the two small hiccups early in the meal, Tiny’s & The Bar Upstairs did not disappoint in recreating an absolutely romantic and outstanding dining experience. I am thrilled to award them a prestigious four star rating. The service was excellent. Our multi-coursed meal was paced well, so that we did not feel rushed, and did not feel like we were waiting between dishes. While I cannot give a five star rating because of the mistakes, I am happy to forgive them.
Justin and I didn’t know what to do after dinner, and it was still pretty early, so we walked around and decided to stop in Racines restaurant/wine bar a few blocks away. Justin has worked with this place’s owners, and there were plenty of seats open at the bar, so it was nice to stop in and check it out. We each went with a glass of Stéphane Tissot, Crémant du Jura Rosé (pink champagne) for $15 each. And the owner brought us out a dish of complimentary chicken liver pate. So … yeah … we had our entire gluttonous dinner and dessert, and then ate the pate too… I couldn’t just leave it there!
Despite the disgusting fullness in my stomach, it was still extremely, extremely delicious. We hung around for a little while, and when the restaurant started to fill up we rolled ourselves back to the bus stop and made the trek home.
So that about sums it up: a most perfect first Valentine’s Day together.