Whether you believe the concept of food as an aphrodisiac is a mere myth or based on hard facts, what’s the harm in a little experimentation? Oysters and chocolates—essentially the “his and hers” of purported libido-boosters—are two of the most well known aphrodisiacs, but others include avocados, figs and even sea urchins. Not to mention the most obvious of all: alcohol.
Ladies first: What guy hasn’t tried to score points buying his girlfriend a heart-shaped box of chocolates? And who can blame them? Corny advertising campaigns aside, most women do dig chocolate. Skip the mass-produced stuff in favor of Bistro 45’s trademark dessert: the dark chocolate “soup.” Really much more of a soufflé, by any other name it still smells—and tastes—plenty sweet.
For the Gentleman: oysters. The most revered bivalve has both symbolic and scientific backing for its rumored randy ways. The first is obvious. It’s a visual cue. But oysters are also full of other amour-inducers, from amino acids to zinc. There’s arguably no restaurant more associated with all things raw than Downtown LA’s Water Grill, where there are typically eight to 10 different oysters available daily. According to Matt Stein, Chief Seafood Officer at parent group King’s Seafood Company, “These selections are the resulting shortlist of an everyday process of sampling.” Said samplers must be the biggest studs in the biz.
Piccolo chef Roberto “Bobo” Ivan says, “We live in a beautiful world. Why deny it?” Beauty certainly extends to his flavors and presentations: who else could turn squid ink tagliolini with sea urchin emulsion and imported tuna bottarga into a masterpiece of sophistication. Considering uni is a dopamine activator, it’s a wonder more diners don’t accost the chef.
From black pasta to mole negro, many consider this exotic dish to be Guelaguetza’s most potent concoction. Though the exact recipe is a family secret, the above photo drops some hints. Naturally, chocolate and chiles are accounted for, but “the king of all moles” also incorporates almonds and bananas, both of which share a hedonistic history. Rumors of garlic—a surprising aphrodisiac if there ever was one—are indeed true. Avocados are more than just a superfood, so start with a small guacamole, the amuse bouche of the aphrodisiac world.
What’s sexier than caviar? If one is to believe the famous quote that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac,” then caviar must be the ultimate symbol of virility. West L.A. sushi gem Kiriko pairs just a teasing portion with fresh mango and house-smoked salmon. Rarely is fusion so reverent.
Eggs are quite literally signs of fertility, while asparagus is just as obviously phallic in design. Alcove Café combines the two with its asparagus Florentine. A grilled roll provides the base of the dish, with thick spears of asparagus strewn across two perfectly poached eggs, all topped with hollandaise. It’s a B&B-worthy recipe, as in breakfast and (then) bed.
At Fig & Olive, both of the namesake ingredients have an Epicurean lineage. And one dish that incorporates elements of each is the appetizer of warm goat cheese in a fig leaf. It’s served with fig chutney, walnuts and black olive crackers. As an added bonus, it wouldn’t look out of place to unwrap one and feed it to your date. Chef/owner Pascal Lorange explains, “Figs have always been associated with sensuality, and their history is rooted in the ancient world, including Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire. Lavender has also always been perceived as a sensual and romantic scent. Both ingredients combined serve to arouse the sensuality and romance in both women and men.”
Who would have guessed that something as awkward-looking as an artichoke could stir up fervor in 16th-century Europe? Considered so potent they were only allowed to be consumed by men, modern day PICI Enoteca in Beverly Hills takes a more egalitarian approach. Here, even women can be tempted into wanton ways by sampling the artichoke fritters, which are served with boursin cheese and herb aioli.
Between half-naked aerialists, body-painted performers slinking through the crowd, dinner served “in bed,” and a ready-made space for an after party of all-night dancing, what isn’t sexy at Supperclub? Past themes at this avant-garde ultra-lounge have included the “Pajama Party,” “A Journey to the Moon” and “Love is a Fairytale.” Supperclub managing partner Abdi Manavi explains, “Every aspect of the experience is an aphrodisiac—we created it that way. From eating your dinner in bed, to ingredients picked by our chef for the four-course [meal], to the lighting, the amazing performers, and the music our dinner DJs plays, all [of] the five senses are catered to.”
Both grapes and honey have centuries-old seductive powers. Lexington Social House’s HoneyVine cocktail takes its name from the pisco base (pisco is a grape brandy, hence the “vine” reference) and the honey syrup. St. Germain Elderflower provides a pleasant floral nose, plus there is also fresh lime and cucumbers, with a dash of lavender bitters. Bar manager Kyle Ackley, who created the luscious libation, says, “I don’t want to fluff up what’s already in there with big garnishes. It’s nice in the bucket glass because you can really get your nose into it … the lavender bitters, the crispness of the cucumbers. The more I think about it, it’s a pretty romantic drink.”
The Tres Santos is a drink with a more dubious intent. There’s a famous country song called “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.” What happens when you combine Fortaleza silver and mezcal? And don’t forget the Peychaud’s bitters and compressed watermelon, which contains a pro-blood-flow nutrient. Maybe MB Post should rename it Spanish Fly.
Henry’s Hat may not be the only place offering a Scorpion Bowl for two, but it’s probably the only one where you can follow it up with a game of Twister right on the spot. The exact recipe is proprietary, but it’s basically a blend of rum, juices and spices served in a ceramic tiki bowl with a “volcanic” flame in the middle. AJ Gilbert, owner of Henry’s Hat says, “I am sort of a purist—I think alcohol may be the only true aphrodisiac a restaurant can sell … I believe that, if you’re on a date and you’re leaning forward, eye to eye, with a straw in your mouth and a fire between you, [you’re] doing pretty well."
Alcove Café and Bakery
1929 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz, 323.644.0100
45 South Mentor Ave., Pasadena, 626.795.2478
Fig & Olive
8490 Melrose Pl., West Hollywood, 310.360.9100
3014 W Olympic Blvd., Koreatown, 213.427.0608
3413 Cahuenga Blvd. W, Los Angeles, 323.512.2500
11301 W Olympic Blvd., Ste 102, Little Osaka, 310.478.7769
Lexington Social House
1718 Vine St., Hollywood, 323.461.1700
1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, 310.545.5405
5 Dudley Ave., Venice, 310.314.3222
212 S Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, 310.274.7424
6675 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323.466.1900
544 S. Grand Ave., Downtown, 213.891.0900