It's Valentine's Day, and you can send flowers or take chocolates. Or you can do something a little different and take your lover out for oysters. They are, after all, said to be an aphrodisiac. Here are a few recently reviewed restaurants where you can go diving for pearls.
CAMERON'S (1978 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (818) 793-3474). Cameron's is a big, bustling place, stylish and still casual, and they do things right. At the marble, horseshoe-shaped oyster bar, the mollusks are freshly shucked with each order and if you want horseradish, the root is grated on the spot. Oyster specialties include half a dozen on the half shell for $5.50, oysters on a skewer for $8.40 at dinner and $6.95 at lunch. Six fried oysters will run you around $7.95. They also sell oyster shots at $1 each. Meals come with such side dishes as potatoes au gratin or coleslaw made from scratch in the restaurant's kitchen. Open for lunch and dinner daily. All major credit cards. Full bar. Parking lot. A second location is at 18902 East Gale St., Rowland Heights, (818) 810-2799.
CAPT. PEPPER'S SHRIMP BOAT CAFE (400 S. San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 473-8488). Berthed upstairs in a shopping center, the cafe is a nice place to relax after an active day. The room is quiet and soothing, tables are spaced well apart, the lighting is soft and, in the evening, there is a wonderful view of the sunset over Beverly Hills. This is the kind of place where friends meet for a casual, inexpensive dinner, where families go for a night out, where a baby is not out of place. The slogan is "Back to Basics American Seafood," and the menu is definitely basic--shrimp cocktails, seafood salads and fried, grilled and sauteed fish and shellfish. And they have their own oyster bar. Half a dozen oysters will run you $4.45 or you can get a dozen for $7.45. The bar offers full service from the regular menu, too. Open for lunch and dinner daily. MasterCard, Visa and American Express. Beer and wine. Shopping center and street parking. Other location is at 11057 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (213) 473-8488.
CITY OF ANGELS BREWING CO. (1445 4th Street, Santa Monica, (213) 451-0096). Not just the first major brewpub in town, this spare, colorful, trendily designed space is a full-scale restaurant serving all-American food with style. During the day you can munch on spicy chicken wings, baby back ribs, hefty hamburgers or oyster shooters. The oysters will run you $1 a shot. Since City of Angels brews its own beer, you may want to order a "taster pack" of their four different creations to try along with the oysters. Or, since it's Valentine's Day, perhaps you'll opt for the passion fruit iced tea. Open for lunch Mon.-Sat. (limited lunch menu on Sat.) and dinner daily. MasterCard, Visa and American Express. Beer and wine only. Public lot across street (parking free after 6 p.m.).
OCEAN AVE. SEAFOOD (1401 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (213) 394-5669). It is easy to feel you're on vacation just sitting on the outdoor terrace banked with potted flowers and trees. All the plates passing by are lovely, the wine list is expansive, service is entirely smooth. Besides all the seafood you can think of, Ocean Ave. has its own oyster bar with six different varieties. Half a dozen Kumamotos (from California) will run you $7.25, while the Belons (from Maine) run $6.95 and the Gulfs (from Louisiana) will be $6.85 a half-dozen. Or you can order the sampler of six, a sort of taster pack where you can mix and match to your pleasure. This will run you $7.50. Open for lunch and dinner daily. MasterCard, Visa and American Express. Full bar. Valet parking.
SIMON & SEAFORT'S (340 Golden Shore, at Catalina Landing, Long Beach, (213) 435-2333). This "Fish, Chop and Oyster House" is a comfortable place (it's owned by the same Seattle-based company that owns Cutters and Stepps) with a spacious, deeply carpeted dining room. The Long Beach restaurant boasts 25 pure malt whiskeys, a dazzling array of liquors and 21 kinds of draft and bottle beer, each kept at the proper temperature. The service is wonderful and the food impeccably fresh. Depending on the time of year, Simon & Seafort's offers as many as five kinds of oysters. The Shoalwater, Quilcene and Hood Canal (all from Washington) will run about 95 cents each, while the Kumamoto (Japanese oysters raised in Washington) are more expensive at about $1.95 each. Open for lunch Mon.-Fri., brunch on Sun., and dinner nightly. MasterCard, Visa and American Express. Full bar. Validated 3-hour parking.