The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, February 4, 1999

bullet For a romantic night,bullet
choose the right food

YES there's a danger in setting your first date in a restaurant. The typical worry is that you'll have nothing in common and nothing to say to one another. I say the bigger danger lies in seeing stars and feeling a warm sensation in your gut and attributing these phenomena to electricity emanating from your date.

Those feelings may be misplaced. It could be the chef casting spells, in which case, you're falling in love with the food. Anyone would be confused over the source of such sudden euphoria, what with the stirring aromas, visually beautiful and tactile delicacies set before you. Such is the power of aphrodisiac foods, something to think about as you plan for the most romantic day of the year, Feb. 14.

The Food and Drug Administration pooh-poohs the idea of food as aphrodisiac, with the official line being that reported effects are based more in folklore than fact.

It's true that our predecessors had great imaginations, seeing, umm -- I gotta be careful here to maintain our PG-13 rating -- various human body parts in ginseng, rhino horns and oysters. Some of the items considered aphrodisiacs have since been discovered to possess essential minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, which compensated for dietary deficiencies. Thus, our forefathers probably felt more prowess than usual after a seafood banquet, and came to revere all shellfish as sexual aids. So much for mystery.

Chiles and mustards are also believed to stir passion, but everyone knows that the sweaty, tingly feeling that comes with ingesting these foods is just the body's response to such heat-producing chemicals as capsaicin.

WHAT are these aphrodisiac foods? First, they're exotic. By virtue of scarcity, caviar is up there. Sturgeon roe is rich in phosphorus, but it probably won't help most fellas since phosphorus deficiencies are rare these days. You do have to have a lot of money, however, to serve the best caviar, and some may find that attractive.

Also exotic are spices and herbs. Anise, cloves, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary and saffron are all considered stimulants, even if all they stimulate are your tastebuds. Fruit -- sweet, plump and juicy -- are also a turn-on to some.

So where should you start looking for aphrodisiac food? Locally, we're limited in choices of cuisines, but I decided to follow the spice route. Check out:

bullet Mexican. The cilantro, the chilies, the thick chocolate-imbued moles are muy bien. But there's good Mexican and bad, and the bad stuff will douse any fire. For the good stuff, head first to Quintero's, 1102 Piikoi St., 593-1561. Try the Camarones al Chipotle ($14.95), shrimp intensely spiced with a sauce of chipotles and strands of onions, or the Browned Chicken with Mole Poblano Sauce ($13.95).

bullet Indian. The colors of curry and saffron soothe the eyes while your other senses take in a vast array of textures, scents and flavors. There is great alchemy at Zaffron, where even the rice is sexy, spiced as it is with cloves, cardamom, saffron and other magical ingredients. Zaffron is at 69 N. King St., 533-6635.

bullet Moroccan. The very scent of B'stilla is enough to make one swoon. The chicken, egg and nut filling at Casablanca is enveloped in papery pastry, then topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Totally mouthwatering. As if that's not enough, eat it with your hand as utensil. For $27.50 per person, you can get a complete meal that starts with several salads, including couscous and hummus -- none too filling because that justs tends to make you bloated and that's not sexy. Choose your own entree, such as lamb brochettes served with hot, hot, hot harissa sauce. Look for them at 19 Hoolai St., 262-8196.

Aphrodisiac foods may or may not work for you, but ain't the experiment grand? And I'll bet food is way more fun than Viagra.

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Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to

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