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A Few Reasons Not to Be Home for Holidays : Restaurants: Diners can take advantage of having fine food served in handsomely decorated settings.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

After all the weeks of preparation for Christmas, part of the enchantment--and relaxation--of the actual holiday for many Orange Countians is to be served fine food in a handsomely decorated restaurant.

Here are a few options for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

CHRISTMAS EVE:

The Pavilion restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel, Newport Center, will present a six-course prix-fixe dinner from 6 to 10 p.m., amid decorated Christmas trees and Christmas carolers. Dinner begins with duck sausages in potato nests with black truffle sauce and includes an entree choice of medallion of veal stuffed with wild mushrooms or Maine lobster on stir-fried vegetables with ginger soy blanc sauce. Cost: adults, $75; children under 12, $55. In addition, the Cabana Cafe at the Four Seasons will serve a four-course dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Adults, $29.50; children under 12, $19.50. Reservations: (714) 759-0808.

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At Cafe Mozart in San Juan Capistrano, guests stroll into the restaurant through a colorfully decorated and lighted patio to order from the regular menu. Full dinners are $14.50 to $24.50. The restaurant is at 31952 Camino Capistrano. Reservations: (714) 496-0212.

Hans Prager has decided to have two “Christmas Eves” at the Ritz in Newport Beach: Sunday as well as Monday. Carolers and lavish decorations set the stage for the $40 prix-fixe dinner, which begins with the Ritz’s signature carousel of hors d’oeuvres. Entree choices: roast goose (the big holiday favorite here), Norwegian salmon, pepper steak and prime rib of veal. You’ll find the restaurant at 800 Newport Center Drive; (714) 720-1800.

The traditional Christmas Eve dinner at Le Midi highlights roast goose with orange “Bigarade” sauce. But it also includes a salad of mache lettuce and radicchio, lobster bisque and fresh raspberries with chef Walter’s “secret sauce” in chocolate cups. It’s $39. The regular menu, featuring wild game, will also be available. The restaurant is at 3421 Via Lido, Newport Beach; (714) 675-4904.

Chanteclair goes a-caroling again this year with singers in Dickensian garb performing for two hours at lunch and another two hours at dinner, through Monday. And chef Byron Gemmell augments his regular menu with traditional holiday specials. For your Christmas Eve dinner, you might select venison or goose and buche de noel , the French yule log pastry. (714) 752-8001. 18912 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach.

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Le Meridien in Newport Beach plans two old-fashioned holiday feasts on the eve of Christmas. Le Cafe Fleuri will serve homemade eggnog, fresh Crescent Beach oysters with white wine and caviar and a warm venison pate with poivrade sauce to begin. Entree choices: broiled filet of salmon with champagne and fresh basil or broiled breast of chicken with morel mushroom sauce. A praline yule log dessert tops off the meal, tabbed at $20 per adult and $15 per child, with service from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Le Meridien’s Antoine will present a candlelight dinner with oysters on the half shell or paupiette of smoked salmon, lobster and papaya. Entree choices: roast Canadian gosling or noisette of venison. Dessert selections include yule log Frangelico. It’s $65 per person, including one bottle of champagne, red or white wine per couple. Service begins at 6 p.m. 4500 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach; (714) 476-2001.

For Christmas Eve in an English inn, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, the Cat & Custard Cup in La Habra is decorated to the rafters, with the spotlight on a tree full of--what else?--cats. The restaurant will prepare a special menu with six entree choices, including rack of lamb, veal, fresh seafood. Dinners, including appetizer, soup or salad, will be $30 to $38, with service from 5 to 9 p.m. 800 E. Whittier Blvd., La Habra; (213) 694-3812.

Although Dover’s restaurant in the Doubletree Hotel will be closed Christmas Eve, the hotel’s new lounge, Hunters’ Saloon, will present a “hospitality hour” all evening, with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and eggnog. In addition, the saloon’s huge selection of regional American holiday beers and ales will be available. 100 S. The City Drive, Orange.; (714) 634-4500.

CHRISTMAS DAY

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In Santa Ana, the Revere House, under the new ownership of Alfie Anaxagoras, will serve Christmas Day from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Pate maison, choice of soup or salad, entree and dessert will be $23.50. Main dish options include roast turkey, game hen, ham, chicken Barcelona or picatta, veal with champagne mushroom sauce and prime rib or New York steak. The restaurant is at 900 W. 1st St., Tustin; (714) 543-9319.

The Marriott Suites, overlooking the Upper Bay in Newport Beach, offers dinner from 5 to 10 p.m., including the sundowner menu from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Two special holiday repasts highlight entrees of filet of beef Wellington ($18.95) and Cornish game hen stuffed with wild rice ($15.95.) The hotel is at 500 Bayview Circle (714) 854-4500.

The Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Tennis Club will serve its lavish traditional Christmas champagne brunch with seating times of 12, 12:30, 2, 2:30, 4, 4:30, 6, and 6:30 p.m. Cost: $21.95. The hotel is at 900 Newport Center Drive; (714) 729-3565.

At the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach, a Christmas Day buffet with complimentary eggnog and cider will be served from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Father Christmas will stop by from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with gifts for the children. And the buffet features half a dozen “stations”: cold buffet, salads, seafood, wok and pasta, hot dishes, a carving station for turkey with apple-walnut-sausage stuffing and stuffed leg of lamb with rosemary-garlic sauce, plus a pastry table. For adults, it’s $39; children under 12, $22. In the hotel’s Cabana Cafe, a traditional Christmas Day menu will be served from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Adults, $30; children under 12, $20. Reservations: (714) 759-0808.

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Seating will be available from noon to 6 p.m. at Alfredo’s Ristorante in the Westin South Coast Plaza. The four-course Christmas dinner includes three entree choices: rosemary and garlic roasted tom turkey with chestnut bread stuffing; roast rack of lamb Mephisto with mint sauce or poached filet of turbot with lobster medallion and curry sauce. Dinner prices: $23 to $28.

In the Cafe at the Westin, the Yuletide buffet presents an array of such favorites as whole roasted turkey, carved honey baked ham and leg of lamb. Adults, $16; children under 12, $10. Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Cafe’s “Turkey-Take-Out Dinners” and “Turkey to Go” will also be available for Christmas day with 48-hour advance reservation and prepaid deposit. 666 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa; (714) 540- 2500.

The Dana Point Resort will serve its regular menu, as well as a special entree of roast rack of veal, priced at $24.95. For reservations call (714) 661-5000, extension 57. The hotel is at 25135 Park Lantern.

At the Fullerton Marriott, California State University in Fullerton, the Christmas Day menu includes the dinner salad bar and a choice of sliced turkey with gravy, sliced ham with honey glaze, chicken breast with lemon herb sauce, plus assorted desserts, eggnog or hot apple cider. It’s $12.95 and will be served from noon to 8 p.m. at 2701 E. Nutwood Ave. (714) 738-7800.

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Santa will visit youngsters at the Santa Claus Christmas day brunch in Le Cafe Fleuri, Le Meridien, Newport Beach, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. A welcome eggnog precedes the buffet. Special entrees in addition to the Meridian’s typical myriad of other choices include roast goose with choucroute stuffing and cranberry sauce; prime rib with horseradish. It’s $24 per for adults and $15 per child.

Incidentally, for your home entertaining, Le Meridien’s pastry chef will prepare the traditional French yule log, with layers of praline, chocolate and vanilla sponge genoise. They serve six to eight people; $24 each. Le Meridien is at 4500 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach. Information and reservations: (714) 476-2001.

A roundup of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day dining options will be published Dec. 26.


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