We've all been there: we're busy with work, or school, or kids, or all three at once, and then it happens. Either it's Valentine's Day or a gap appears in the clouds and a few hours of precious sunshine peeks through. Sure, you could use that time to lay on the couch, watch TV and eat your feelings, or you could reconnect with a loved one and inject a bit of romance back into your life, reminding you what you're doing all this for in the first place.
Of course, the last thing you want to do is spend a single minute of that time in the car on your way to where you'll make the romance happen. We put together this list of romantic options here in Westwood and Century City that you may not have considered.
Dinner is a Valentine's Day classic. Of course, it's tempting to hit up the old favorites that serve the foods we know and love, but even that gets old after a while. Trying new things can make a date an adventure, and trying an Indonesian restaurant can literally add some spice to date night. Indonesian cuisine is one of those foods that are tough to summarize. With a wide variety of rice, noodle and meat based dishes, it's tempting to compare it to other southeast Asian foods like Filipino or Javanese food, but with over 6,000 populated islands making up all of Indonesia, the dishes can vary wiely from area to the next.
One great way to experience Indonesian food is through the Dutch-Indies tradition of rijsttafel, or rice table. It's a feast of as many as forty or more small dishes served alongside rice. In addition to familiar plates like egg rolls and satay, rijsttafel includes exotic fare like goat meat, fish paste and duck. Textures are also explored in the meal, with certain foods, like coconut and peanuts, there to represent textures like crispy and chewy or tofu omelets for a soft and gelatinous experience.
Don't be thrown by the idea of forty small plates. Many Indonesian restaurants offer a variety of options depending on how many people are taking part in a rijsttafel.
One of the best ways to connect with a partner is with a good conversation. Don't be one of those couples that spends a silent Valentine's Day dinner together. Find some stimulation in the form of the arts. The Hammer Museum or the Annenberg may seem like obvious choices for a date, but how often do you actually go?
The exhibits that the museum tends to advertise publicly are great, but digging deeper reveals a collection of works that often aren't discussed outside of art blogs and museum insiders. Check out the works of Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow in her first U.S. exhibition. Her lifelike resin sculptures of lips and breasts are far from salacious, though offer plenty to talk about.
Finish a date at the Hammer Museum with a walk through the museum courtyard's statue garden.
The Annenberg Space for Photography features free admission, great for a thoughtful date on a budget. Walk the exhibits, or park yourselves side by side in the center of the museum at the Digital Gallery, where you can watch a slideshow of thousands of the space's images projected in large format Blu-ray HD.
And then there are those dates where the main goal is letting go, relaxing, and throwing down a few drinks. Chances are your early courtship had plenty of nights like that, though these days your mornings might be too hectic to afford a hangover. If you have the opportunity to sleep in the next morning, Smith House is a great way to recapture some of that early, boozy magic.
The food here is good, though the star of the show right now is the 120 beers on tap. The restaurant offers even more in bottles. The best way to experience these beers is one of two ways. One way is through the beer flights - flights are arranged by region, such as West Coast craft brews, Belgians, fruit beers, etc., and served in small tasting glasses. The other is finding a seat at the bar, making friends with the bartender, and letting their expertise guide you through the experience. Some healthy tipping together with genuine interest and appreciation can make for a very educational and fun evening of drinking.
Sometimes relationships benefit from a little - or a lot - of pampering. Whiskey Blue and the W Hotel in combination provide just that. The lobby level hotel bar Whiskey Blue delights with Polynesian-inspired architecture and specialty cocktails that are never quite the same twice. The bartenders here mix up interesting takes on both mojitos and martinis, but, like anything associated with the W, they're pricey and start at around $14. The bar also offers a small plates menu featuring sophisticated versions of classic bar food like sweet potato fries with white truffle aioli. Best of all, the staff here is very customer service-oriented.
A stay at The W Hotel is the perfect way to end the date. Standard in each room is a 42" television, goose down duvets and 350 thread count sheets. Ask for a late check out, and spend the morning eating breakfast in a private cabana in the outdoor heated pool, or getting a couples massage at the on-site spa.
One way to keep romance alive is to look to the past. Both the Regncy Village and the regency Bruin Theaters evoke romantic notions of old Hollywood quite easily. Far from modern multiplexes, these old, revamped showhouses nonetheless screen both the blockbusters of today and the classics of yesteryear.
Spend a free afternoon seeing a matinee, just $9.50 before 4 p.m. If you're out late, try for a "Insomnia Saturday" showing and take in a midnight movie for $9. One caveat: call before heading over for your darkened movie theater hand holding - the theaters are occasionally rented out for private events.
Maybe what this Valentine's Day needs is some ice cream. Everyone knows about the ultra popular Diddy Riese but the line is not Valentine's Day-appropriate? This shop started in Santa Monica before moving to its current location in Persian Square, and doesn't offer much in the way of romantic ambience, but that's the least important aspect of the place.
Ali K Rafye and crew serve up original and exotic flavors like orange blossom, saffron and even poppy seed slush. The scene here is laid back and relaxed: absent are the long lines snaking down Broxton and Westwood. Instead, a friendly employee offers up more samples than you and your sweetie can handle, and all before you even ask. Cruise around Westwood Boulevard or head into the Village with your adventurous ice cream, arm in arm with your valentine.