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Chang’an‘s casually chic space will soothe the frazzled nerves of anyone who abhors the frenetic atmosphere in many Chinese restaurants. Smooth jazz, attentive service, and a decent wine list befitting their perch atop the Hilton Plaza. If you time your visit to coincide with their daily Happy Hour, you can enjoy some of their specials at discounted prices, including their cold sake for $10 instead of $15 per 400 ml.

Their Kumamoto oysters were $3 during Happy Hour instead of $3.80, and I got the last 4! If you allow the chef to choose your oysters, they are only $1.50 each during happy hour.

Every table seemed to have the lamb skewers, so we ordered two at $4 each during happy hour, not realizing how big they were; we could have easily split one skewer. They were so heavily cumin flavored that we would not order these again, but for sheer quantity of meat and tenderness, they are a bargain.

My friend ordered steamed scallops at $4 each and enjoyed the delicate touch on the scallop atop the glass noodles.

I went for the steamed oysters at $3 each; they were identically prepared and the addition of the glass noodles made each one a heartier appetizer.

We needed a vegetable dish to round out our meal, so we got the broccoli, beef tendon, bacon, and shrimp stir fry for $12. This was probably our favorite dish because it combined all the textures and flavors of land, sea, and garden.

To end our evening we had the Chinese sausage fried rice for $11 that was served with shrimp chips! The rice had distinctly sweet and silky sausage bits throughout and is a good choice for those who are meat and rice lovers. We ended up taking half of it in a doggie bag because as usual our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.

Another benefit of eating here is that they source their products from organic vendors, and they include a service charge with every bill to help with the pay disparity between the back of the house kitchen staff and the front of the house waitstaff.

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Getting lost is one of the best ways to discover places and since I almost never use GPS, I get lost quite regularly since I don’t know the Eastside of Los Angeles very well, having lived on the Westside for decades; the only times I crossed town was to visit friends or to have a daycation in Pasadena. I had printed out a map (yes one of those paper things) but somehow I still made a wrong turn due to construction detour signs, and I ended up in San Gabriel.

Once I drove past this structure, I immediately pulled over and parked. Turns out it is the Grapevine Arbor, and since there was no event going on, it was open to the public!

 

Beyond the little courtyard at the entrance (with toilets), lies this gate into the garden.

There is a vine covered gazebo

and facilities with water and grills.

 

An antique wine barrel stands to one side,

while palm trees,

a covered shuffleboard space,

and covered walkways stand on the other side.

Part of the San Gabriel Playhouse can be seen from the arbor park,

but walk around for a full frontal view

with the cooling fountain just next door, to the Grapevine Arbor.

Tiles in the sidewalk commemorate the history,

but a walk around the street gives you a taste of the present charm of the city.

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