Critic's Choice: Restaurants that help make every occasion special

Especially at this time of year, when relatives roll into town eager to live it up. It's fun to introduce them to L.A.'s ethnic dining scene, chase food trucks around town and stop in at the latest cutting-edge venues. But at some point, they may want to indulge in a celebratory holiday meal at one of L.A.'s fine-dining establishments.

Here's your crib list:

Hatfield's. Quinn and Karen Hatfield have created a new wave fine-dining restaurant in the old Citrus space on Melrose Avenue, a block from Osteria Mozza. With a Minimalist décor and a glassed-in kitchen where you can see Quinn and his crew creating intricate but accessible dishes, Hatfield's is introducing a younger crowd to fine dining. Wine director Peter Birmingham is a real asset too, adept at pairing wines with dishes such as raw marinated hiramasa with Anaheim chile and endive, or Berkshire pork ravioli or one of Karen Hatfield's spirited desserts.

6703 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 935-2977, Entrees, $29 to $36; four-course seasonal prix-fixe menu, $59; vegetarian four-course prix-fixe, $49.

Mélisse. Need a place for relatives who avidly follow the Michelin stars and revel in rich French food served with all due pomp and circumstance? That would be Mélisse, which (like Providence) can boast two gold stars. Josiah Citrin's kitchen offers several prix-fixe menus, some with supplements for luxe preparations, and table-side service. You can't go wrong with dry-aged cote de boeuf or rotisserie chicken stuffed with truffles carved and served tableside.

1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 395-0881, Four-course menu, $115 and up; vegetarian tasting menu, $105; 10-course menu, $195.

Patina. Joachim Splichal's flagship restaurant at Walt Disney Concert Hall has gained new energy under French chef Tony Esnault. His polished French-California cooking and elegant plating, plus a more approachable wait staff and stellar wine service, make Patina the place to dine before or after seeing Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This time of year brings in a loyal crowd for game specials like grouse or wood pigeon from Scotland, an excuse to drink that great bottle of Bordeaux from your cellar on a Tuesday night when there's no corkage fee.

141 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 972-3331, Entrees, $40 to $48; four-course market menu, $59. No corkage fee Tuesday evenings.

Providence. We're very lucky to have Providence, Michael Cimarusti's elegant seafood restaurant, in L.A. Every ingredient is rigorously sourced. His dishes, especially those on the tasting menu, are inventive and surprising. Service is crisp, and star sightings are not uncommon. Try his charcoal-grilled wild French turbot for two or wild Maine lobster basted in smoked butter. Another option: a serene and sumptuous Friday-only lunch.

5955 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 460-4170, Entrees, $43 to $51; market and chef's menus, $95 to $175 per person.

The Royce at the Langham Huntington. Out with the dated ship models and fusty decor. In with a bright contemporary dining room and beautiful, subtle cooking from Guy Savoy protegé David Féau. His $85 tasting menu is an astonishing bargain for cooking at this level. Wine director Eric Espuny has put together a cellar of about 5,000 selections that covers all the bases. Exceptional dining in Pasadena.

1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena, (626) 585-6410, Entrees, $35 to $42; tasting menu, $85.

Saam at the Bazaar by José Andrés. The Bazaar from D.C.-based Spanish chef José Andrés takes up the entire ground floor of SLS hotel with its Bar Centro, not one, but two tapas bars — Rojo and Blanca — plus an over-the-top patisserie where you'd fully expect to see the Mad Hatter having tea. It's great fun, but maybe too boisterous for the foodie relatives. So give them a spin around the place and then head behind the bar to Saam, the serene, exclusive dining room where Andrés and his crack team offer an entrancing tasting menu for $120 per person.

SLS Hotel Beverly Hills, 465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 246-5545, Thursday to Saturday only, $120 per person, by reservation only.

WP24 by Wolfgang Puck at the Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles. If you want to treat the relatives to dinner and a view, that would be Wolfgang Puck's WP24 on the 24th floor of the Ritz Carlton near L.A. Live with its wraparound view of downtown skyscrapers and the mountains beyond. Go just before dusk to get the full effect, and do come hungry. Lee Hefter and chef de cuisine Sara Johannes' menu includes a swatch of crispy suckling pig with black plum purée, a tasting of dim sum and whole sea bass baked in a fragrant salt crust.

900 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 743-8824, Three-course menu, $80; four-course menu, $110.