02/10/2012 01:49 pm ET

Valentine's Day: Restaurants Dish Up Specials, Chefs Dish Out Advice (PHOTOS)

WASHINGTON -- For Valentine's Day, restaurants across town are doing their part by coming up with inventive menus designed to spark a diner's passion. Several eateries are even incorporating aphrodisiacs into their dishes, which means lots of oysters, caviar and the old standby, chocolate.

Going out to eat means leaving most of the heavy lifting to the restaurant, but we spoke to several chefs who stressed that the onus is still on the patron to make the day special for his or her partner.

"I know from personal experience, make sure you put in the effort," said Scott Drewno, executive chef at The Source. "It's not what you do. It's really putting in the effort and time -- whether that's making a reservation or treating your significant other to a special time."

Adam Sobel, head toque at Bourbon Steak, also has some words of advice. "Avoid garlic. Eat on the lighter side of things," he said, adding that you don't want to feel "like a blob after dinner." And if you're planning on taking the relationship to the next level, Sobel revealed the best place to hide an engagement ring.

"Desserts are always best," he said. "You don't want to hide a ring in an entree, because it's unexpected at that point, you know? It could get lost. A dessert has a little more control."

The executive chef at Plume, Chris Jakubiec, also has a suggestion for a successful Valentine's Day: Choose carefully where you sit in a restaurant. A hushed corner is far more romantic than a spot near the hubbub of a service station. Ask for a good table when you make your reservation, or scope out a good place ahead of time and request it specifically.

Plume has an intimate spot in the back tucked into a cupola, ringed with the spines of books and a chandelier hanging overhead. It's part of the main dining room, but a curtain can be pulled forward for privacy.

Sorry, folks, it's already booked for this year's Valentine's Day. But if you reserve it next year, you'll have this to look forward to: "When someone sits down at that particular table," Jakubiec revealed, "we're going to have an automatic dessert specifically for that table."

And the dessert is ... a large white chocolate egg filled with raspberries, strawberries, tiny puffs of meringue, passionfruit sorbet, raspberry sorbet and strawberry sorbet. It's topped with whipped cream, and the whole thing sits on a nest of lemon cotton candy.

Have you made plans for your sweetheart yet? Click through our Aphrodisiacs on the Menu slideshow for a peek at what some area restaurants are cooking up this Valentine's Day.

Aphrodisiacs On The Menu