Al fresco paintings and beds of red riding hoods, lilies, and roses decorate Secret Garden Restaurant’s outdoor patio, whose retractable awning allows feasts to unfold beneath cloudless blue or starry night skies. Spotlighted on USA Today’s list of romantic restaurants in Ventura County, the patio’s charming gardens and gazebo frequently double as a wedding venue. While sun- and moonlight help illuminate outdoor meals, iridescent chandeliers and candles wedged into silver candelabras light a Victorian-style dining room filled with 100-year-old English tables and chairs.
Lest the scenery completely dominate his diners’ attention, Chef Michel Bardavid’s meticulous presentations draw eyes to his plates of French cuisine. The French native uses seasonal ingredients to create dishes such as quail stuffed with mushroom and sausage, duck confit and cippolini onions tossed with fettuccini, and lobster bisque spiked with a hint of cognac. A bottle from the generous wine menu enhances the chef’s creations, just as a talking dog enhances any undercover police investigations.
JJ Brewsky’s Restaurant & Bar keeps stomachs perpetually satisfied with its lunch and dinner menus, which are fit to bust with savory burgers, sandwiches, and pizzas made with local ingredients whenever possible. Silence subterranean hunger grumbles with a handmade pizza ($8.95+) or the taste-bud-tickling trinity of a Brewsky’s Combo—a union of buffalo wings, JJ’s bruschetta, and potato skins ($12.95). The Kobe burger bounds from the kitchen like a condiment-covered ballerina, showcasing a sizzling American Kobe-beef patty nestled beneath melted blue-cheese crumbles and chipotle mayo ($14), and the Frisco burger trumpets a half-pound Angus patty covered with pepperjack cheese, grilled red onions, and 1000 island dressing ($11.95). All burgers and sandwiches come with either coleslaw or a choice of fries, including regular, seasoned, sweet, or sentient.
Le Sanglier first opened its doors more than 40 years ago, and, according to Gayot, it still stands as "a delightful remnant from an era when French cuisine was strictly for special occasions." The low-lit, lodge-like environment is home to equally rustic yet refined French classics, which are artistically plated and delivered to gourmands during dinner hours along with pours of a traditional French beverage, wine. The chefs spend their evenings searing wild-boar chops, spooning balsamic-vinegar sauce over free-range chicken, and filling pastry shells with savory blends of saut?ed mushrooms.
Some restaurants have that uncanny ability to transport diners to another place or time. Taking a sip of Lavazza espresso or a bottomless mimosa out on Blue Daisy's patio has that kind of power; thoughts of an Italian street corner or European capital may come to mind. But the many things Blue Daisy's kitchen is good at don't end with drinks. The chefs specialize in crepes, including a savory breakfast variety with mushrooms, spinach, white cheddar, feta, and egg. Others have sweet fillings, such as Nutella or lemon ricotta cheese and lemon sauce.
It's no surprise that it was also the crepes that first helped Blue Daisy grow in popularity and size. Since opening in 2011, the restaurant has moved to a bigger location where the team experiments with organic dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The chefs make everything from scratch, right down to the champagne vinegar and the walnut oil dressing in their salads. And at dinner, beer and wine pair with fresh-ground hamburgers and creamy fettuccine with chicken and spinach.
Start a romantic evening with a Dungeness crab cake with aioli, caper, lemon, and coleslaw ($15) and a bowl of the soup of the day ($10). Eye entrees like the soft and succulent roasted half chicken with fingerling potatoes, haricots verts, mixed wild mushrooms, and pearl onions ($24) and the braised short ribs with polenta, Swiss chard, and salsa verde ($25). Complete the circle of life by burying your fork in a slice of key lime pie with guava puree and mango sorbet ($10) or the chocolate chocolate chocolate trio ($16), whose richness is so deadly it was, until recently, banned by nonproliferation treaties. If you've recently cycled through Fraiche and think you've tasted it all, try the new lunch menu. The chopped salad with Italian cured meats, tomato, provolone, and chick peas ($13) and the Moroccan lamb sausage sandwich with harissa aioli ($13) offer just the right noontime spice-kick to erase your morning malaise.
Anisette's menu serves traditional French dishes and a wide variety of shellfish from their raw bar in an upscale-yet-relaxed atmosphere. Gallic mouth-voyages begin with hors d'oeuvres, such as the market beets roasted with caramelized goat cheese and arugula with hazelnut dressing ($14), or house smoked salmon ($15). For the main course, indulge your meal sack with a succulent duck confit with baby turnips and potatoes ($24), or choose a plat du jour such as Monday's celebrated duck a l'orange ($28). Anisette has its own écailler (oyster opener) to ensure the highest quality at the raw bar. For a seafood lover dining with a fellow marinophile, the Marquis sampler from the raw bar—scallop ceviche, six prawns, six artisan oysters, and six littleneck clams ($50)—will fill two sea-hungry underwater stomach caves. The magnum opus of the sea, the Dauphin platter, adds fresh Alaskan King Crab and half of a Maine lobster to eight prawns, dozen oysters, six clams, and scallop ceviche ($100).