Reservations of Choice

Valentine's Day Dining Ideas

Paris in Austin

No one ever says, "Let's go to Frankfurt for a romantic evening." They'd rather go to Paris. The very name conjures images of amour; its very soul is steeped in the stuff of love. An integral part of this sensuality and romance is Paris' love affair with food. It is the French form of seduction to indulge in a meal exquisitely prepared and leisurely consumed. With a carefully chosen wine to soothe inhibitions, a Parisian meal is tops for Valentine romance. But since nothing pours ice water on romance like bankruptcy, why not go to France without leaving the city limits by dining at Chez Nous?

From the moment you view the shingled roof and half-curtained windows from Neches Street, you are on your way to Paris. Now step inside: ahhh! The burgundy paisley tablecloths! The flowers in Ricard bottles! The French accents of the staff! You're here in Paris and so far it has cost you nothing more than valet parking, if that.

The romantic experience doesn't rely on an authentic atmosphere, however. What makes this the place for your Valentine dinner of your dreams is the fare. Silky soups, soulful ptés, a salad Lyonnaise with a voluptuous, perfectly poached egg atop are some of the spectacular beginnings offered at this Austin landmark. But wait! Why not really set the mood by starting with a kir royale: a glass of champagne with a dollop of crème de casis. The sweet bitterness of the blackberry-flavored casis adds body to the festive sparkling wine, not to mention a lovely rosy hue. As you and your beloved sip the aperitif, peruse the menu and gaze at each other in the golden light of the cozy interior. Take your time, for the staff here appreciates the lingering dinner. They are in no rush to move you along; they know a good meal takes time.

Evenings offer the regular items off the menu as well as a menu de jour ($18.50) which allows for a starter, a choice of one of three entree specials of the day, and a dessert. The entree might be a carefully tended filet of fish, a steak or other meat in an exquisite demi-glace of sorts, or any other inspiration of the kitchen. That's less than the cost of a cab ride to the airport and much less than the dinner tab in Paris.

At Chez Nous, there aren't any overt attempts at setting a "sexy" mood or serving up food with a wink, so it can't be either of those things that makes a meal here so romantic. Dining at Chez Nous is romantic because the staff knows that food carefully chosen and respectfully prepared is a sensual experience in and of itself. And if you can slow down the pace of life to appreciate that sensuality, you might inspire sensual possibilities elsewhere.

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