Annam 22053 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, 313-565-8744, $$: Annam promises to provide its customers an unforgettable dining experience of traditional and high-class Vietnamese cuisine. Chef Phong Nguyen, who has a culinary pastry degree, is particularly good at light, traditional Vietnamese dishes. The mood is sort of romantic too. Reservations accepted by phone or fax. No smoking.
Antonio’s in the Park 15117 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Park, 313-821-2433, $; This romantic little Italian restaurant has all the Old World charm of a courtyard café in Rome. The menu has handmade pastas, thick and rich soups and to-die-for specials. The atmosphere, suggested by candlelight and colorful tapestries, is so relaxing that slow service would seem like a gift.
Assaggi 330 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, 248-584-3499, $$$; Assaggi’s Mediterranean dishes include wood-fired pizza, antipasti, sea bass and sea scallops with hand-rolled pasta. A full wine list and a full bar are available to accompany your lunch or dinner. Known for its seasonal dishes, this month’s fall menu will incorporate butternut squashes, risottos, richer, more comforting sauces, a lobster pizza and walnut-and-pancetta-crusted Berkshire pork tenderloin.
Bin 151 1515 Ottawa St., Windsor, 519-977-0112, $$; Cool fusion food & hip place with reasonable prices — some items are expensive but worth every morsel. You can bring your own bottle of wine too! Serving food described as “modern cuisine with a global flair,” Bin 151 offers food that makes your taste buds skip. Wheelchair accessible.
Bistro Bordeau 3315 Auburn Rd., Auburn Hills, 248-852-3410, $$; Executive chef Kipp Bourdeau cooks up innovative bistro-style cuisine, including dishes such as andouille-crusted whitefish with sautéed spinach and grain mustard vinaigrette as well as grilled mahi mahi with carmelized oranges and lobster-shrimp potato hash. The decor is inviting, and the circle-in-a-square dining room offers many opportunities for privacy. No smoking.
Café Felix 204 S. Main St., Ann Arbor, 734-662-8650, $$, Authentic European-style café, serving pastries, breads and cakes baked fresh on-site, as well as European wines, beers and liquors. They serve a full breakfast, omelets, crepes, soups, salads and tapas. No smoking. Handicap accessible.
Ciao 1024 Monroe, Dearborn, 313-274-CIAO, $$, Frescoes on the walls, hand-carved floors, ornamental wrought iron, mosaic borders and custom stained glass and lighting bring a feeling of Old-World Italy to Ristorante Ciao. It’s a nouveau-Italian restaurant which serves authentic Italian specialties, including 10 different homemade pasta dishes, fresh seafood and veal entrées. The specialties of the house are the 10 different kinds of thin-crust pizzas, which are baked in an authentic wood-burning oven.
Coach Insignia 200 Renaissance Center, 62 Floor, Detroit, 313-567-2622, $$$ This eclectic chophouse is the United States’ second-highest restaurant and is located at the top of the GM Global Renaissance Center. Coach Insignia features incomparable food, great service and a world-class wine list to accompany a panoramic view of Detroit and our Canadian neighbors. Handicap accessible; dress code: no jeans.
Fiddleheads 4313 W. Thirteen Mile Rd., Royal Oak, 248-288-3744, $$; The dining room is lovely and the food is head-and-shoulders above most. And, hey, parking at 13 Mile and Greenfield is no problem. Their “new American” menu puts forward a dozen entrées with such adults-only dishes as mussels in a hot and sour broth and smoked trout.
The Fondue Room 82 Macomb Place, Mount Clemens, 586-463-8568, $$: Here private cozy booths provide the ultimate romantic secluded atmosphere — and dipping succulent strawberries in rich Swiss chocolate ain’t all bad either! Serving a wide array of savory dishes, desserts and wines, the Fondue Room also provides guests with their own skilled fondue trainer to ensure your fondue doesn’t end up a “fon-don’t.” Open 4-11 p.m Sunday-Thursday, 4 p.m-1 a.m Friday and Saturday
Giovanni’s 330 Oakwood Blvd., Detroit, 313-841-0122, $$$; The 2002 winner of our Best Where You’d Least Expect It award, Giovanni’s could get your Valentine’s Day date wondering why you’re driving toward the Rouge Complex. But the stunning old spot brims with carved woodwork in the dining room and stainless steel in the kitchen. The food needs no improvement.
La Cuisine 417 Pelissier St., Windsor, 519-253-6432, $$; When you go to La Cuisine, here’s what to do: Order a starter of foie gras (a feature, not a regular menu item). Although it’s not a huge portion, $18 Canadian is not really a lot for this taste sensation that everyone ought to try at least once in their lives. The menu gets pared down a bit for Valentine’s Day, and all dishes are served a la carte — all the more perfect for sharing and experimenting. Last year one of the desserts featured was hand-dipped truffles.
Luciano’s 39091 Garfield Rd., Clinton Twp., 586-263-6540, $$; Serving fresh, delicious pastas topped with your favorite Italian sauces, Luciano’s follows an Old World Italian tradition that specializes in authentic Italian pasta, specialties, wines and desserts, and the restaurant’s cooks are directly from Italy. Luciano’s promises entertainment for lovers during the Valentine’s dinner. In the northwest corner of Gar-Pointe Plaza.
Maria’s by Artie Oliverio 2080 Walnut Lake Rd., West Bloomfield, 248-851-2500, $$$; Maria’s leans towards traditional, heavily sauced Italian dishes, but often with unexpected and welcome touches. Although the complimentary focaccia is filling and the entrées are generously proportioned, it’s hard to pass up the distinct and equally hefty appetizers ($6.99-$11.95).
Mon Jin Lau 1515 E. Maple, Troy, 248-689-2332, $$$; Sophisticated but casual chic Asian-Deco decor. New Asian cuisine, combining the taste of Asia with preparations artfully presented. Great ambience for gourmet Chinese food, with a lively bar for drinks or sushi, as well as cool music and lighting. The Chinese stuffed eggplant is an appetizer big enough for two. Lunch Monday through Friday; dinner seven nights including late night dining.
Tribute 31425 W. 12 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills, 248-848-9393, $$$$; Over-the-top detail in both decor and food sets this luxurious restaurant apart from the crowd. Chef Takashi Yagihashi commands the crew in the huge, two-sided kitchen on the lower level, below the dramatic Victor Saroki-designed dining room where diners can be assured they are treating themselves to the area’s most expensive restaurant. The a la carte menu is in a constant state of flux, as exotic ingredients ebb and flow.
Vicente’s 1250 Library St., Detroit, 313-962-8800, $$; Familiar elements from the Caribbean are here — plantains, yucca, papas rellenas, thin beefsteak and lots of black beans and rice. Fried and breaded pork are on the menu too, as are shrimp, arroz con pollo and several paellas.
The Whitney 4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 313-832-5700, $$$$; Detroit’s showplace mansion restaurant. Entrées run the gamut from the “roasted heirloom tomato stuffed with vegetable-strewn wild rice and a red wine reduction” ($23) to the “Old Detroiter,” a 24-ounce porterhouse steak with whipped potatoes, crispy leeks and stone-ground mustard sauce ($44). Winner of our reader’s poll for Best Place to Propose, it’s not such a bad place to end a chilly autumn night. Though reservations aren’t required, they are recommended.