I posted a similar message in reference to someones search for dining by the waves, but since my suggestions were too late and he already had his date, I am starting a new thread to do it more justice. Now, I can not believe that all of you true chowhounds strictly judge dining by the food alone. There are many factors that play into a mystical experience shared with the one you love. So all you men in particular, if you want to knock your woman off her feet cold X, then please hear the local out...
If you plan on going to the beach to wine and dine... your top priorities are 1) an excellent cuisine 2) a magical, romantic ambiance and 3) excellent, friendly service. Combining these three elements is a perfect fusion which together serves as a foundation to a wonderful evening. Pairing your charm and finesse with a sensational dining experience will put your woman in a completely other world. An amazing evening of wining and dining can even stop all time, slowly melting away all those troubles in your life into a distant nothingness. With such an objective, you CAN NOT go skimpy on the wallet... so save up another week or two and splurge (it's definitely worth it). These are the four places to go (in no particular order):
Geoffrey's: What could be more romantic than overlooking the Pacific Ocean and hearing the waves crash below you at sundown (not to mention the thick tingling scent of the salty blue)? You may watch the sunset accompanied with a glass of wine and appetizers, OR you might ask your waiter to not to fire up the your first entrée for another 15 minutes IF you decide to take their private stairway leading to the sandy beach for a quick stroll holding hands with the sunset in the background (maybe even with a glass of wine). The restaurant sits cliffside and is, for the most part, open air (partly covered), so make sure the weather agrees with your evening. Also, make reservations requesting a two-seat table against the outer rail for the most romantic view. There is an elevated fire pit in the midst of the garden to keep your flames running hot, while a waterfall completes the serene atmosphere for a picturesque backdrop. Geoffreys menu is California cuisine with many Asian-influenced seafood dishes and a handful of meat entrées. Appetizers include tasty bay scallops over a foie-gras-speckled risotto or jumbo coconut shrimp with tomato chutney and Asian plum sauce. I highly recommend the specialty entrees, respectively the catch of the day and the desserts like the crispy apple tart. The only complaint I would have is the chairs could be more comfortable but with everything else so delightful, you probably wouldnt even notice. In fact, it is no wonder why I have heard several stories of proposals happening at this establishment the entire night is a perfectly orchestrated from-all-sides aphrodisiac. Geoffreys is a great restaurant for a date and the most intimate setting of all my recommendations.
27400 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA 90265
Moonshadows: If you have been to Moonshadows, then you havent really been to Moonshadows. Recently having fallen into the hands of three new and notable chefs and a new owner (who comes from Italy), Moonshadows has been updated with a totally new make-over. The menu has a sophisticated touch with a lot of seafood choices in addition to steaks and definitely dont miss the desserts (check out the menu online)! Putting the food aside (I know how dare I say that at chowhound.com), the view is incredible. Request a table along the window, inside. After finishing dinner, ask to move out to the patio for drinks (or bring your unfinished bottle of wine) under a heating lamp and lay on a futon (grab a couple extra pillows from nearby). Careful now this is when the atmosphere turns from pleasurable to passionate and steamy: remember playful is one thing but keep it PG-13 (Please keep your hands and leg inside the vehicle at all times!). The outside futon is a definite must (she will love it)! The patio is cantilevered out over the cliff, leaving you feeling surrounded by water and sky. The waves break directly beneath you. BTW, make reservations before the sunset of course (check weather.com for the sunset time). If you want to save on valet, just park across the street but be careful of on-coming traffic.
20356 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA 90265
Cross Street: (After) Big Rock Drive
The Lobster: All the restaurants I am recommending serve a variety of seafood, but The Lobster is strictly just that - serious seafood with a sunset set-up that is a close contender to Geoffrey's & Moonshadows for a breathtaking view (although, the others above have a pure natural setting, The Lobster I would describe as more artsy: a view of the Santa Monica Pier filled with lights and a large glittering Ferris wheel). The elevated restaurant has glass on three sides with a cantilevered, open-air deck that serves a 180° panoramic view of the Santa Monica and Palisades Beach. Its not always easy to get a seat at the outdoor bar, but the view is worth a standing ovation. When making a reservation, request window seating in the corner of the glassed-in patio for a great view and more privacy (Keep in mind, this restaurant is a business and they attempt to maximize on their prime spots i.e. high turnover. If you plan on staying the entire evening like the Italians do, then go to Geoffreys or Moonshadows). The lobsters are delicious but also the most expensive items on the menu. If you want to go all out then lobster is the crème de la crème. Dont get the traditional steamed lobster with butter; try one of their special lobster creations. The menu is always changing with a plethora of seafood entrees to choose from. Dessert is a quite simple decision - warm banana brulee in a ginger crust... but if brulee isnt your thing, there are so many others that will send you to paradise! Remember, if you are stressing about the bill, then forget about dining in the first place save up until you can afford it and allow yourself to enjoy the evening - The Lobster is a sure-shot winner. Your woman will be doing favors for you the rest of the month.
1602 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Jiraffe: Mind you, the location is NOT on the beach like the fore-mentioned restaurants, but the food and ambiance is wonderful. Jiraffe is all about the Purple Peruvian Gnocchi simply amazing. Don't dine late because there is a chance on weekends that they will be all out of this entrée as well as items on the specialty menu (happened to me last time). When making reservations, ask for any place upstairs which is even more romantic of a setting (but in particular in the corner next to the window - as long as the woman in brown hair doesnt serve you. She wasnt as professional as the men waiters, so on the safe side, make sure with the hostess that your server in your section has a male name). The menu focuses on Californian and French cuisine (check the menu online). My first experience was the best, with a banana-wrapped Chilean sea bass that melted in my mouth practically orgasmic. I particularly like the extra touch of complimentary hourderves/aperitifs at the beginning of the meal... reminds me of being at a classy restaurant in Europe. Speaking of a true European dining experience, it is quite common that you will be able to talk to the chef who makes his rounds (I forgot whether he actually goes upstairs; so ask your waiter to make sure that when he does make his rounds, that he doesn't miss your table). He is so friendly that if you open up to him, he will be quite generous with your purple gnocchi portions (at least that was my experience one time as a group of 7 ppl). The deserts are delicious as well like the caramelized banana cream pie and warm chocolate soufflé (must order 10+ mins in advance). Warning though: some people have experienced long waits on weekends even with reservations, so if this happens, order a drink and relax the evening will blossom into a sensual experience.
502 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Now I'm going to throw out one more advice as a bonus, but this for a fun evening, nothing romantic like the rest. Dukes is a surfer-went-chef restaurant that puts a spin on its nearby competitor Gladstones (boring). All locals generally go to Dukes for one thing - "Taco Tuesdays" for tacos and a corona (mind you it is a younger crowd). You must sit on the outside patio which is covered in sand. Weather plays somewhat of a factor in a good experience... but as long as it's not too cold of a night, you are fine (plus you can always rely on their heating lamps for extra warmth). Make sure to wear sandals/flip-flops so you can play with the sand between your toes.
Now we all know there is no such thing as a perfect restaurant, so I wouldnt be surprised if there will be one critical chowhound out there thats got to slam me, but I am speaking from MY experience not yours... so take it with a grain of salt and ENJOY the moment. As for me, these memories will last a lifetime. I hope you have a fabulous evening, I really do. Remember, dont come with too high expectations, instead... as the night unfolds, let it surprise you time and time again. Shes in for a big treat.
p.s. On your way home from work, pick up some roses... it will start the night off on a smooth road to cloud nine.