Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 19th
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dining dragonhpIt was a filling afternoon meal with plenty of vegetables, protein, and even an adult beverage, with a tab that came to just $12.96.

It was the "Three and three at 3:00" Happy Hour at the Dragon Lounge at Canton Restaurant, which is offered daily and all day on Wednesdays.

There is amazing variety in the 13-item menu, all for $3. Six draft beers including a Speakeasy microbrew, small sake, Japanese and Chinese beers, and seven wines are also $3. And if you still have work to do, free wi-fi is available.

The lounge is separated from the restaurant by a sturdy, gnarled wood display case and screens made of horizontally strung bamboo. Sit at the counter where a television is suspended over the full bar, at three new tall tables with comfortable foot rests, perfect for a tête-à-tête, or chill with friends on the well-worn bench seats.

I lingered over a chilled glass of crisp Cupcake Chardonnay while evaluating the menu. There are staples such as edamame, egg rolls, pot stickers, crispy wontons, and calamari. But I can never pass up those healthy Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Thin noodles, colorful shreds of purple cabbage, chewy fried tofu and crisp, sweet jicama were rolled in an emerald leaf of lettuce, and then translucent rice paper. Dipping them into smooth peanut sauce, I tasted glimmers of fresh ginger.

A nicely sized bowl of chicken salad included iceberg lettuce mixed with matchstick carrots, purple cabbage, crisp fried wonton skins, minced peanuts, and grilled chicken breast. The creamy dressing added little to the entourage, so I spiced it up with soy and peanut sauces.

Wasabi Yam Sticks were coated with airy tempura batter and deep fried. I dipped the tender slices of root vegetable into the syrupy sauce mixed with spicy wasabi paste. | KP

Dragon Lounge at Canton Restaurant, 900 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 475-8751. Happy hour 3 to 6 p.m. daily, all day Wednesday.

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