SanDiego.com: Temecula Valley dining options for a date night
By Aaron Linsdau • Tue, Mar 15th, 2011
Romantic and unique dining options abound in Temecula Valley. As the population of the area has swollen over the last two years, restaurateurs have been emboldened to expand the offerings of intimate food possibilities, with locations in Old Town, central Temecula and in wine country. The number of restaurant types, themes and specialties has flowered and not likely reached its climax, even in difficult economic times. There are many ways to impress your significant other by choosing just the right cuisine to put you both in the mood. Read on to experience a sampling of the delectable options available in the Valley.
Out in the heart of Temecula wine country is South Coast Winery. As you pull into the parking lot, you will note the attention to the landscaping, with open walkways draped by vines, surrounded by budding roses. Inside, you will find a generous dining area with subdued lighting and, if timed right, a perfect place to catch sunset rays sparkling off the wine glasses at every table. The ceiling is a massive affair with cloth drapes, dampening the general din of the restaurant. Both lunch and dinner menus have a wide selection to satisfy most, providing a taste bud exploration with overtones of French and Italian influences. Open since September 2005, the restaurant has created a following with both locals and out-of-towners.
With the attached spa and hotel, it’s even possible to make an entire weekend out of South Coast Winery and feel like you and your special person have gotten away for a week. Breakfast, lunch and dinner served, so you can stay at the resort the whole weekend. Reservations suggested. 34843 Rancho California Road, Temecula. 951-587-9463 / 866-994-6379. Sunday - Thursday, 7 a.m. - 9 p.m., Friday - Saturday 7 a.m. - 10 p.m. Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m.
Soro’s in Old Town Temecula offers both indoor and outdoor seating with a Mediterranean flair. The staff is smartly dressed, matching the white linen tablecloths and burgundy napkins. The wood deck patio is covered with greenery, draped with twinkling lights and hanging lamps, adding an outdoor candlelight feel. The two suggested dishes here are the lamb chop with wine sauce and the Soro’s special. Dress warmly as, even with the heat lamps, the evening Temecula breeze is chilly. 28464 Old Town Front St., Temecula. 951-587-8082. Sunday - Thursday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., Friday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Hana Sushi has several locations throughout the Valley. This is not to say that Hana is the fast food of sushi. Each location has its unique ambiance and crowd, with the store on Ynez Road. It has the most modern layout with ample tables and a stretched sushi bar. For the sensual and sexy, delicate raw fish shared between two people is a best bet. You won’t find the uncommon types available in Tokyo, but is your date really ready for a roll packed with tiny squid? All locations have a selection of both hot and cold sake to help the conversation and embolden the timid. 27576 Ynez Road, H-15. 951-699-8589. 31805 State Hwy 79, Temecula. 951-303-0395. 40940 California Oaks Rd, Murrieta. 951-894-1701.
Just north of Overland Drive on Jefferson Avenue is Vail Ranch Steak House. You will be greeted by a warm fireplace in the foyer during cool evenings. The deep, moody lighting is just right for having long conversations. There is a lowered bar, lorded over by a petite music stage featuring mature selections on the nightly piano. Walking through the restaurant, you might feel like you are waltzing through a stage from the movie Casablanca.All that is thankfully missing is the smoky haze drifting from the bar. For those looking for a lighter meal, there is a fixed price menu on Monday from 3 p.m. - 9 p.m. and Tuesday - Sunday from 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. There are also early dining specials available, too. Reservations recommended. 27600 Jefferson Avenue, Temecula. 951-694-1475.
Sorrel Restaurant and Bistro offers an open layout and seasonal menu, targeting a European feel with books, candles and glass art decorations. Modern paintings with strong, but not garish, colors festoon the walls, adding visual appeal to the Spartan table arrangement. Quiet conversation feels just right here. The menu changes throughout the year, reflecting the availability of fresh fruits, spices and vegetables. Featuring French, Italian and German items, the Romanian and Mexican chef and owner Adrian Halmagean brings his experience and even his grandmother’s Torta Aurora recipe to the new world. The restaurant is a newborn, less than a year old. Only carrying boutique wines with nothing over 300 cases produced, Sorrel appeals to those looking for distinction. One suggestion is the Dijon-encrusted New York strip over potatoes and grilled asparagus.41377 Margarita Rd, Ste F-108, Temecula. Near Oggi’s Pizza and Cosi in the mall’s east section. 951-296-3372.
Shogun Restaurant is where you go to be entertained by your chef, sit next to your sweetheart and meet new people. Shogun is three restaurants in one – a regular eatery, a sushi bar and a cook-in-front-of-you teppanyaki grill. At the grill, choose your base dish and the meat to accompany it, and then the chef not only cooks but entertains you during the whole process. You might see a beating heart (it’s cute, really), a flaming onion volcano or flying shrimp. Each chef has their own personality and style, engaging foodies and keeping you enthralled by creation of Japanese cuisine right before your eyes. Watch the fresh ingredients strike and sizzle on the flat grill, morphing into mouth-watering dishes.41501 Margarita Road, Temecula. 951-296-9133. Monday - Thursday 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m., Friday - Saturday 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Of the many Italian dining options, Palumbo’s Ristorante is a fine choice. Palumbo’s serves traditional Italian in an old world setting. White walls, wrought iron lanterns, a brick wall separating the dining area from the kitchen and cozy light all add to quintessential continental setting. Here, you will find any of the pasta, baked specialties, meat, fish and fowl you expect at a fine Italian establishment. There is both indoor and outdoor seating available. Serving international, American and local Temecula wine, Palumbo’s is an ideal location to keep your date full and happy. 41925 5th Street, Temecula. 951-699-7925. Tuesday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Beyond the scrumptious food selection, The Edge in Old Town Temecula has an unmatched candle-light atmosphere. Earlier in the evening, the restaurant has a pleasant tranquility that draws you to your company while providing both delicate and bold entrée selections to suit most anyone. The fare here is cut from a broad swath of ingredients, with entrée selections featuring arctic char, Hudson Valley foie gras (when available) and Japanese Hokkaido scallops. For the less daring, the surf-and-turf is a perennial favorite. Make sure to ask your server about the chef Witzel-inspired dessert.There are options for open table seating along the window, more private booths and dining in the lounge area. The bar and cozy lounge area are good places to retire after dining. As the night wears on, The Edge transforms from an elegant dining establishment to a boisterous bar and lounge accompanied by regular live and DJ-spun music, moving the throngs of people who regularly pack the establishment late at night. Reservations recommended. 28544 Old Town Front Street, Temecula. 951-506-3343. Monday -Thursday 5 p.m. - 10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Saturday - Sunday 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.