Feb 13, 2014

    Tread carefully on that Valentine's Day meal

    FORGET fugu or other food items which will have you dicing with death. Even without potentially fatal cuisine on the menu, a Valentine's Day dinner is one fraught with danger.

    Count yourself lucky if you do not become mincemeat by the end of the evening.

    That is the real reason for popping a champagne bottle on Valentine's Day - to congratulate yourself for pulling through the most stressful meal of the year.

    Romantic dinner for two? It is more like staying off the chopping board.

    One wrong move and you may be in the soup or take the place of the lobster on the grill.

    Indeed, there have been good, honest men turned into toast before the petit fours (an appetiser) arrive.

    So why are there men who offer cash and credit cards as sacrifices yearly when restaurants carry out their carefully orchestrated mass slaughter of wallets in their version of the St Valentine's Day Massacre?

    Many men have learnt the hard way that failure to pay homage to St Valentine - who supposedly watches over restaurants and the retail industry - leads to consequences worse than food poisoning from a bad oyster.

    For all the fuss and fancy-sounding special Valentine's Day set menus, I find dining out on this occasion an experience similar to that of a wedding-dinner guest.

    You cough up a large sum of money to sit through course after course of mass-cooked food which every other table is getting - all in the name of celebrating love.

    The difference is that you cannot mumble an excuse about avoiding the jam in the carpark and run off before dessert is served.

    It is boring that most restaurants offer a fixed set meal which you are pretty much stuck with. It is not even likely to feature any of the restaurant's signature dishes.

    But better to be safe and boring, because if you go to a restaurant that offers different set meals at different prices, things get dicey.

    Pick the lowest-priced set and your date may resent you for being tight-fisted, or, worse, she may take it as an affront that you don't love her enough to pamper her all the way.

    You won't want to be one of those couples who end up quarrelling on Valentine's Day.

    The way I see it, however much you pay, food off any Valentine's Day menu is not designed to be delicious.

    I suspect this is all part of a grand scheme by restaurants to make sure the focus is on locking eyes with your significant other.

    If you are not too busy sizing up couples at other tables, that is.

    Come on, admit it, it's a silent competition between tables.

    Which table has a bouquet?

    And, if there is one, is the bouquet nicer than mine?

    Woe betide the naive or complacent man who thinks that the complimentary rose given by the restaurant suffices as a floral surprise.

    I sometimes wonder if men regard Valentine's Day dinners the same way they view national service - something they have to do in case of war.

    Dining out on Valentine's Day can feel like a charade where you go through the motions just to prove you are in love.

    Perhaps for newly minted couples, this is an inevitable rite of passage. But surely there are more romantic, however cliched, ways to celebrate love.

    Getting together to cook something simple but special may inspire more romance than simply shelling out cash to dine at a swanky restaurant.

    And if you really want proof of love, well, you know where you stand when your significant other offers to do the washing up.