The Mysteries and Bonuses of Lent: Fish on Fridays

Grilled Oysters at Saso, Pasadena. Photo credit: Fried Chicken Sandwich Studios

Most people have heard of Mardi Gras, the last big bash before Lent, but not everybody knows what Lent is really about. Lent is a period of 40 days before Easter when Catholics do penance to purify themselves for the coming of Christ through the resurrection. In the olden days, many foods were forbidden during Lent, including flour, sugar, and dairy, which is why Mardi Gras is sometimes called “Pancake Tuesday.” Pancakes were one way to use up the excess sugar, eggs, butter, and flour.

Nowadays Lent is usually observed by “fasting and abstinence.” The fasting is pretty easy compared to some other religions; it just means no snacking between meals (or for some people a single meal a day). Abstinence refers to abstaining from meat on Fridays and holy days like Ash Wednesday. This practice fostered the rise of Friday fish frys and gave Catholics the nickname “Mackerel Snappers.”

In the spirit of Lent, see below for our list of some standout fish and seafood dishes from LA restaurants.

Saso is the just-opened restaurant at the Pasadena Playhouse. The seafood-intensive menu’s standout offerings include Salmon CarpaccioSaso at Home: Oysters & Wine (consisting of a dozen oysters, fresh horseradish, and housemade mignonette with Thai chili and ginger, along with a branded oyster shucker and a bottle of Lumos Wines’ Pinot Gris), and Txangurro Tortas (Dungeness crab cakes with queso navarra, hot peppers, and avocado crema). Find more information here.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar offers East Coast seafood in Downtown Los Angeles.  Rappahannock’s patio is open again, and there’s also plenty of well-spaced outdoor seating around its ROW DTLA location. A plethora of tasty things from the sea can be found here, among them a Lobster and Shrimp Quesadilla and Shrimp and Grits with gochujang sauce. Find more information here.

Recently opened in Los Feliz, Nossa merges the cuisines of Brazil, Italy, and California. The Lenten season standout is Moqueca de Peixe — a classic Brazilian fish stew with coconut milk, tomato, onions, peppers, and cilantro, along with a side of rice. Find more information here.

Holbox offers some of the best fish and seafood in Los Angeles. Located Downtown, at Mercado la Paloma near USC, Holbox is currently offering delivery and to-go. Try the Scallop Aquachile Kanpachi, the Uni Tostada, and the Ceviche Mixto. Find more information here.

Savoca, the trattoria at The Ritz Carlton, Los Angeles, is currently open for dining on their patio and in their charming, partially enclosed cottages. Try the Seafood Cioppino or Seared Branzino with watercress, California citrus, and baby fennel.  You can find more information here.

With inspiration from coastal Baja, SOL Mexican Cocina’s oceanic offerings include Hot & Raw Tropical Ceviche, Chile con Limon Smoked Salmon Tostada, and Wild Fish on Esquites (the fish is encrusted in lemon-almond and topped with cotija and scallions). SOL Mexican Cocina is located in Playa Del Rey. More information can be found here.

Ora King Salmon. Photo credit: The Finishing Gourmet.

The Finishing Gourmet’s up-leveled at-home dining experience requires no more than five minutes of your time to add the finishing touches to iconic, high-end steakhouse fare. Try the Chilled “Massive” Shrimp Cocktail, garnished with edible flowers, or the ready-to-serve 16oz. Grilled Ora King Boneless Salmon Steak. Find more information here.

The Hollywood location of famed Naples pizzeria L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele offers several dishes appropriate for meatless days. Standouts include Grilled Branzino, Vongole e Bottarga (linguine with clams, mullet roe, and white wine), and Grilled Octopus with potato and arugula. Find more information here.

Acclaimed Mexican eatery Chicken Itza has been serving acclaimed dishes of the Yucatan within Mercado la Paloma for 20 years. Lent-season options from this humble-but-celebrated eatery include Tikin-Xic (wood-grilled basa fish marinated with achiote and served with rice, citrus jicama salad, and tortillas) and Tacos de Pescado topped with habanero tartar sauce. Find more information here.

Krispy Rice, Katsuya’s delivery-only sister restaurant, offers a great selection of perfectly packaged sushi. Through the end of February, partake of their Valentine-themed Soulmate, Plenty of Fish in the Sea, and Hold My Handroll boxes. At any time, you can order their Go-To Combinations ranging in price from $20-40. Find more information here.

Ethically sourced Urban Plates makes everything from scratch. There are several locations throughout Los Angeles, all offering several sustainable seafood options, including Wild Line Caught Ahi Niçoise Salad. Find more information here.

(Elise Thompson contributed to this post)

Karin E. Baker

About Karin E. Baker

Karin E. Baker is a native Angeleno who loves the eateries, history, nature, architecture, and art of her hometown. When not exploring poke shacks in Kona, tascas in Córdoba, and konditoris in Malmö, she writes about food, culture, lifestyle and travel. She obsesses over comma usage and classic films and is always happy to find an excuse to open a bottle of champagne.
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