Slideshow: Date Night's Favorite NYC Restaurants of 2012

1 or 8
1 or 8
This Japanese restaurant in Williamsburg, whose exterior is marked only by aerosol tags, looks like a laboratory. But there’s no mad science here, only calm thoughtfulness. You can huddle beneath the ghost-white branches, sipping sake and swapping stories over plates of niku jaga. 1 or 8 is best for: a date with an aesthete. Read more »

1 or 8: 66 South 2nd Street, Brooklyn NY 11211 (map); 718-384-2152; oneoreightbk.com

Bistro Petit
Bistro Petit
Bistro Petit only has ten seats, doesn’t serve tap water, and doesn’t have table service. But the food is some of the best you’ll find in New York City. With its excellent, creative, Franco-Korean dishes like lamb shank with basil-mint pistou and surprising, in-the-know setting, Bistro Petit is best for: a date you'd like to wow. Read more »

Bistro Petit: 774 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11211 (map); 718-782-2582; bistropetit.com

Calyer
Calyer
Located on a lonely corner where wind comes to catch up with other wind, Calyer features reasonably priced, inventive cooking that marries seasonal produce to French technique. Months later, we’re still thinking about the roasted Brussels sprouts with chicken sausage, culantro, and garlic. Calyer is best for: a date with an explorer. Read more »

Calyer: 92 Calyer Street, Brooklyn NY (map); 347-889-6323; calyerbrooklyn.com

Convivium Osteria
Convivium Osteria
At dinner this spring, we had a great table nestled near the window, tucked around the bar. Other tables offer a more communal experience, with high-backed chairs and the ebb and flow of fellow diners’ conversations and gustatory issuances. Go ahead and make a reservation: you’ll be glad you did. With its barefaced rusticity and evocative food, Convivium Osteria is best for: a date that feels right. Read more »

Convivium Osteria: 68 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11217 (map); 718-857-8133; convivium-osteria.com

Nai
Nai
Here’s a tapas riddle: what's better than Tía Pol, less crowded than Casa Mono, and an overall delightful place to eat? Anyone? Such a brainteaser actually has an easy answer: the East Village’s Nai. Boasting a warm atmosphere and tasty traditional staples, such as fleshy, garlicky boquerones. Nai is best for: a demystified date. Read more »

Nai: 174 First Avenue, New York NY 10009 (map); 212-677-1030

Saro Bistro
Saro Bistro
Saro Bistro is as personal a restaurant as you will likely find in New York in 2012, the singular vision of chef/owner Eran Elhalal. In a ćevapčići-sized room, he serves “the cuisine of long lost empires.” For him, that's the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman-inflected Balkan comfort food his grandmother (whose nickname graces the restaurant) served him while growing up in Israel. It’s a complicated, delicious backstory, and one he’s happy to share. His restaurant is best for: a date with Elhalal’s past. Read more »

Saro Bistro: 102 Norfolk Street, New York NY (map); 212-505-7276; sarobistro.com

Vesta
Vesta
The produce is in charge at Vesta, dictating the terms of any interaction. “A commitment to a menu without borders,” as the menu states, means our meal could, and did, move from Asia to Latin America to Europe; in fact, we could go anywhere here as long as the ingredients were fresh. And fresh they were. Vesta is best for: a date that’s pure of heart. Read more »

Vesta: 21-02 30th Avenue, Astoria NY 11102 (map); 718-545- 5550; vestavino.com