Food & Drink

How to Plan the Perfect Date

Our guide to choosing the right restaurant, food, and drinks. (The rest is up to you.)
IMAGE John Springer/Corbis
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If we could tell you how to be the perfect man, we would, or maybe we would just keep it to ourselves so that we would shine in comparison. Either way, we always attempt to communicate that Man at His Best is a man with many facets, an understanding of the world, and a well-balanced life. As far back as Euripides they believed the same—he went so far as to say: “The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.” Yes, we seem to think that we have the same amount of candor and wisdom as the old philosopher.

Nowadays there seems to be an insurmountable amount of pressure involved in going out on dates. Blame it on the fact that most communication is usually done through thumb thumping—people are becoming less adequate at actual verbal conversations. You don’t have the same amount of response time, you can’t Google little known facts that make you sound special (don’t lie), and you’re not in your comfy underwear. Add to that the gravity of selecting the right restaurants, food, and drinks, and you’ll have to change your sweat-stained shirt multiple times throughout the night. Get the basics (as laid out below) right, and you’ll have less to worry about. Just be cool, suave, interesting and intelligent (again, no pressure).

When choosing the restaurant:

Firstly, you need to do a little detective work, or ask her straight what kind of food she enjoys eating or what her favorite places are. You want to select a place that is in the mid-range price point, has good food (that you’ve already tried), that is in a location that isn’t a pain to get to because of traffic, which is not a family restaurant (i.e. kids everywhere) and that has a nice ambiance. Make sure to always make a reservation, and ask for a table that is somewhat off to a side and against the wall, to help play up the intimacy.

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We recommend Japanese restaurants (if she likes sashimi and the like), because they are quite often well-designed, have a large menu filled with choices, and there is just something sexy about raw food. Our second best bet would be Italian, because that usually means something quite casual without being cheap, and which has a warm interior. We would not recommend Chinese restaurants, because service can get quite pushy and there are big, loud family tables.

Some Japanese recommendations:

Yurakuen. This glass garden is Diamond Hotel's open secret. It's airy and sweet during the day, but exquisite at night. The comprehensive menu boasts everything from bento boxes to Wagyu finished tableside on a hot stone. The private grills might suit your teppan obsession, but take your date's breath away with the chic indoor foliage instead. Yurakuen is at Diamond Hotel, Roxas Boulevard corner J. Quintos Street, Malate, Manila; tel. no. 02-528-3000.

Marufuku. Consider this hidden restaurant your passport to Japan. The menu is a bible for Japanese cuisine and then some. Marufuku is a safe choice, too. The diligent kitchen nails each dish every time so you'll at least be spared from some embarrassing dinner choices. Marufuku is at The Crescent, 29 San Miguel Avenue, Ortigas, Pasig City; tel. no. 02-570-3989.

Nobu. Looking for fusion? This is where Japanese fusion was born. Pro tip: Indulge in their Sunday brunch buffet and enjoy an end-of-weekend treat with stunning tiradito, sushi, and kushiyaki. Go for broke with unlimited bubbly. Nobu is at Nobu Hotel Manila, Aseana Boulevard corner Macapagal Avenue, Entertainment City, Parañaque City; tel. no. 02-800-8080.

Sensei Sushi. Book at the chef's table for a date that more than meets your physiological requirements. Sensei Sushi is far from traditional, but their offhand combinations would excite anyone's senses. Sensei Sushi is at 268 Aguirre Avenue, Phase 3, BF Homes, Parañaque City; tel. no. 02-358-1387.

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Some Italian recommendations:

Va Bene. This first date might just be the start of a new habit and if you want to be a regular in a restaurant, you might as well be one in Va Bene. Chef Massimo Veronesi works his carbs with bold flavor combinations that will make any diet cower in shame. His pasta dishes are homey and gourmet at the same time. Va Bene is at 3/F Central Square, Bonifacio Global City; Circuit Lane, Makati City; and 2/F Petron Gas Station, EDSA corner Arnaiz Avenue, Dasmariñas Village, Makati City.

Caruso. Take a walk through Naples with Caruso fine Italian cuisine. The highlight of their kitchen is the stone oven, where smoky, crisp Neapolitan pizzas come out. Caruso is unapologetically Italian, so prepare for some palate-tingling thrill with every al dente swirl. Caruso is at 210 Nicanor Garcia Street, Bel-Air Village, Makati City; tel. no. 02-895-2451.

Linguini Fini. Keep it casual yet indulgent with Linguini Fini's 22 pasta dishes. Made fresh every day, the pasta itself can tide you by as you get to know each other from birth to the day before yesterday. If you're still hungry, make sure to try their enormous King Pin. It's an 18-inch beaut that can hold as many as four flavors. Linguini Fini is at SM Mega Fashion Hall, Mandaluyong City; tel. no. 02-531-3302.

Lusso. Make a huge impression right away. Lusso is Cibo's very sophisticated older sister. This is where you go for full-on Italian sophistication. Lusso is at Greenbelt 5, Makati City; tel. no. 02-756-5893.

When at the restaurant:

Aside from being a proper gentleman by opening the door for her and pulling out her chair (yes, these things still apply), the first question you ask, after the awkward joke about the place itself, is whether or not she would like to share food. It’s interactive, fun, and plays into the spirit of things in the Philippines. If she says yes, don’t be pompous and order for the both of you. Let her choose what she wants, or make that a topic of discussion. Brush up a little on your knowledge of the food you are about to eat, or make sure the restaurant that you’ve selected is familiar to you, so that it’ll be natural when you drop lines like: “They fly in their Burrata here weekly, it’s great with their toasted bread.”

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Some don'ts: Say no to saucy items, soup is not a good idea, nothing too pungent, don’t order the 50-minute roast chicken, never order the tasting menu on a first date.

When choosing the drinks, start with something light—bubbles are good, a coupe of champagne or some prosecco perhaps. Definitely something white and not too dry. Or if you would prefer something uncarbonated, maybe a bottle of Riesling from Strasburg or Germany, or a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (show that you are not afraid to order something from outside of France). For the meal, if she is a wine drinker, order a bottle and not by the glass. This bottle would have to be deeper and have a more logical appropriation to the food that you’ve both selected. Always try to find a wine with an interesting story, or from a year that you know has been good in the past. For example I know that a 2007 Cote Du Rhones is almost always great, because I’ve tried many. Find your rock wine choice, the solid one, this is when it’ll come in handy.

Once you’ve enjoyed your evening, move to a bar; it’s always good to keep the conversation going. We aren’t going to get into the thick of it, but just remember to open a tab, only drink the number of drinks she drinks, and never ever suggest a nightcap only because you want to take it someplace else.

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Esquire Philippines. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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About The Author
Sasha Lim Uy
Managing Editor, EsquireMag.ph
Sasha eats to live and lives to eat. For five years, she handled SPOT.ph's food section and edited the last two installments of its Top 10 Food books. She also recently participated at the Madrid Fusion Manila as curator.
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About The Author
Erwan Heussaff
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