Rouge in North Beach: Romantic Dining in a Secret Garden

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When it comes to a romantic dinner, ambiance is king. And Rouge in North Beach rules in the love-vibes department.

Enter the restaurant, head past the bar and dining area, and work your way to the back patio. There, you'll be transported to a whole new world -- a secret garden with a fireplace and foliage-shrouded nooks.

It is magical.

See also: Mi Vida Cafe: Tofu Sandwiches, Beet Tartare, and Veggie Heaven

All great romantic dinners must begin with an appetizer that previews what's to come. Duck and fig sausage ($11.95) might remind you of the Garden of Eden -- you know, fig leaves hiding the sausage. But during a recent visit, we opted for another other racy appetizer: bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with Spanish chorizo. (Just imagine your date wrapped in bacon. Hot.)

For entrées, Rouge offers classic French dishes, Moroccan delicacies, and one creation that's strictly Miami.

Craving Moroccan flavor? The restaurant serves harira soup ($18.95) or tagine de poussin ($24.95). We chose the latter. It featured a Cornish game hen in a carrot and raisin stew over couscous. We were warned that the hen had very little dark meat, but the sweetness and flavor made us overlook any white-meat-related dryness.

For something completely nontraditional, there is also a bizarre yellowtail Grand Marnier tempura ($29.95). Deboned yellowtail is dipped in boozy breading and served with plantains. We aren't sure whether we understood it completely, or if we even enjoyed it, but it's just so Miami.

The food enticed us, and the traditional Moroccan and French dishes satisfied our cravings. But it's the ambiance that reigns at this restaurant. Bring a date; order some bacon-wrapped dates, Moroccan spiced meat, a bottle of French wine; and let Rouge set the mood.

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