There are a few days each year that people return to the same family-inspired, decades-honed dishes, dishes that are enjoyed on that particular date, without fail, always.
Christmas Eve is definitely in that day set, and while tamales, lasagna, posole, and chop suey reign in certain households, the grandest of meals is Feast of the Seven Fishes. We won't even qualify that and say "one of the grandest"; the Dec. 24 feast involves a septet of sea-tasty courses, each revolving around a different type of fish.
The holiday symbolism is in the name, of course, but traditions as to what goes into each plate can and do vary. Meaning that if you choose to go the Seven Fishes route, at a Southern California restaurant, you'll find a variety of choices.
But if seafood is not your thing, hang tight: A traditional Italian Timpano is just ahead, too.
Ray's & Stark Bar: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art restaurant is going with Bacalao -- hello, salt cod fritters -- and octopus for two of its courses. Oh yes, and oysters, an important part of every Feast.
Providence: Maine Lobster, monkfish roasted on the bone, and big-eye tuna? Yes to all three. It's an elegant dinner at an elegant eatery that's been doing this seasonal supper for the better part of a decade.
Cecconi's: Nope, the Feast of Seven Fishes isn't going down at the West Hollywood spot, but a Timpano is. Think a "domed pasta dish" stuffed with goodness like rigatoni and meatballs. Hoo boy, it is hearty, but don't you want a little hearty at the holidays? You do, but note: This is only a Christmas Eve thing, so reserve lickety-split.