Chang’s Garden for Christmas Lunch (Los Angeles, Winter 2014/2015)

Seaweed Flavoured Fish
It has been exactly a month since we got back from Los Angeles but I still have a number of restaurant meal writeups coming from the trip. We ate in the San Gabriel Valley quite a bit less than we usually do—partly on account of a couple of plans that fell through, partly because the holiday season meant very tight opportunities to see some friends and family in other parts of greater LA, partly because we went down to San Diego for a few days. We did, however, go out for Chinese food on Christmas, as we usually try to do and, despite heading to the SGV, shockingly decided against dim sum, Sichuan and Hunan. We went instead to Chang’s Garden in Arcadia for the the milder food of Hangzhou and Shanghai.

This was a last minute change-up of plans* and so we didn’t have a reservation; to be safe we decided to arrive a bit before the restaurant opened. At first this seemed like gratuitous caution as there was no crowd waiting but when the restaurant opened the manager told us we couldn’t all be at one table (there were seven of us) and that the only tables that had not been reserved were two back-to-back four-seater booths. We were happy enough to take them; and indeed within fifteen minutes of opening the entire restaurant (and while it’s not huge, it’s not small) was jammed, and it was still jammed, with people waiting, when we left about 90 minutes later. So yes, I recommend reservations if you’re going on Christmas.

I am no expert on either of these cuisines, and indeed do not even have enough experience of either to be able to confidently tell you which of the things we ate were Shanghainese and which were Hangzhou and which something else or in between; but I’m happy to report that the food was uniformly very good. Click on an image below to launch a slideshow with descriptions and more detail. And if you know more about the food (or would recommend other dishes in the restaurant) please chime in below in the comments.

A very nice meal, on the whole, and a good reminder that we need to be less Sichuan and Hunan focused on future trips. There was a lot that young kids and less adventurous older folk alike could enjoy and which the rest of us liked a lot too—so an easier call with the missus’ extended family with whom we usually end up with at either Korean or dim sum. I look forward to exploring these cuisines further when we’re back in the summer. This meal came to about $140 before tip. Not cheap but not bad value either, considering how much we brought home in leftovers.

*We were originally supposed to go for dim sum but couldn’t rustle up the magic number of eight people for a reservation and so decided not to risk it. And if the crowds outside Sea Harbour when we drove by were anything to go by (though even I wasn’t suffering from lunatic enough optimism to go there on Christmas morning) we made a good call: there looked to be about a few million people outside on our way in and about as many still waiting on our way out.

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