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Oct 23, 2010 07:12 PM

The Orient in Bethpage: Am I Missing Something?

I went to the Orient for the first time, very eager since I've heard so much. Only could do take out. Is there a "secret" Asians-only menu? Is there much more on the dine-in menu? As you'll see, I did learn that the regular menu is not all there is to it.

I picked up the menu to order, and it was VERY typical of every other Chinese restaurant. Same "chicken with broccoli, chicken with chinese vegetables, Happy Family, Bird's Nest," etc.....

There were some "Cantonese Specialties", but really nothing I haven't see a million times; Salt baked pork chop, young chow fried rice, minced chicken in lettuce wrap.

Very disappointing! So I asked the woman at the front, do you have gai lan? dou miao? Yes to both. There actually is gai lan listed as "Sizzling Steak fillet with chinese broccoli", so I ordered it. The dou miao (pea shoots) is not on the menu, but I can have it, how would I like them? So I ordered it simply stir fried with garlic. Also squid with ginger and scallion.

While I was waiting, a man came in and aske for steamed sea bass. "Sure." It's also not on the menu.

So clearly, there's more to the Orient than meets the eye.

In any event, I got the food home and ate. It was decent, not spectacular. The squid was very good. The pea shoots made correctly, but again, pea shoots and garlic. The steak with gai lan was disappointing. A very large portion of meat, and 3 small stalks of gai lan in a very typical chinese brown sauce (oyster sauce, soy, ginger, garlic, xiaoxing wine - make it at home all the time).

My question to fellow CH'ers:

What was I missing? Is there a different menu? Or a well known list of "off the menu" specialties? What should I order next time? Any can't miss items?

Or is the Orient all about the dim sum brunch and their dinner food is just run of the mill Chinese Restaurant.

Xie Xie.

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  1. The Orient is hit or miss; sometimes good and often fair. They cater to a mixed croud of mostly white neighborhood people along with a asian contigency. They are always crowded. I didn't know of the alternate menu and your choices sound inviting . I've ordered totally from the menu and my favorites are: chicken with ginger and scallion in a casserole. When this is good, it's very good. It can be ordered on or off the bone. my group prefers the latter which a few times has been oily but most often it's good. A second choice is clams with black sauce which has been fine. I'll try your suggestion of the squid dish.Please post further expeirnces a The Orient since it's my favorite chinese on LI.

    1 Reply
    1. re: budcar

      A post from a few years ago mentions a Chinese menu. I get irritated when Asian restaurants do this. I realize they want to please the non Asian-American palate, but they shouldn't hide the good stuff from us waiguo ren.

    2. I think I posted the exact same question awhile back. I was there for takeout and tried to ask for the "other menu" to no avail. I finally came to the conclusion there is no "other menu" and the special items are based on conversation with the staff.

      I really wish there was some guidance rather than just winging it and asking.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MrPhil

        Very annoying. It may be great, but if it's going to be like pulling teeth to get the "great," what's the point? I'd love braised pork shoulder "Hong Shao Rou", but do I really need to ask "do you have this? do you have that?"

      2. before we moved upstate, it was our favorite chinese place on l.i. we have brought people there who swore by china town and flushing, queens and thought this was the closest they had to that. we had a great broiled oyster with black bean sauce app one time. the oysters were from the north west and about 6" long but still tender.

        1. I've been a quasi regular at Orient over the past year-plus. To fully appreciate Orient you must negotiate your order with Tommy Tan, the owner. The waiters are reluctant to serve "real" Chinese to their Anglo customers. Now, as a regular, whenever I'm there, Tommy wisks the menu out of my hand and says, "what do you feel like having?" He'll also tell you the day's specials. The off-menu items can vary by the day, time of year,. I've enjoyed shredded chicken or pork spinach soup, sea bass with ginger-scallion sauce, baby lamb chops in black bean sauce, pork tenderloin in pepper sauce, fish rolls, razor clams in black bean sauce, many dim sum items such as stuffed eggplant and stuffed tofu w/abalone, a lotus root stir fry. On the menu, Chinese fried chicken w/garlic is a mainstay and the shrimp w/fruit mayo+ walnuts is always a winner. Also worth noting, Orient allows BYOB and I have had groups with up to a dozen bottles with no problem, except for the tumblers used instead of stems. Insist on being adventurous and you'll be rewarded. BTW, the standard suburban dishes are done well relative to most other Chinese restaurants on LI.

          4 Replies
          1. re: dixdiner

            So, if someone who didn't have "American" tastes walked in there for the first time, he should ask for the owner?

            1. re: Scott_R

              Not a bad idea. If you're insistent, the waiters will tell you what's special, albeit with some hesitation.

              1. re: dixdiner

                This is why as much as I want to like this place, (and going for dim sum has been great) I find this 20 questions or negotiation aspect a bit of a pain in the neck. I don't know what I want, What do I ask for when I get the owner. Just spell it out on the menu! If I don't want it, I won't order it. Even in Flushing and Chinatown (while there may be a chinese only menu) there are still lots of "non traditional" choices in english on most menus.

                The regular menu seems just so ordinary to me.

            2. re: dixdiner

              Gotcha. I figured asking for gai lan and dou miao would do the trick, but I wasn't dealing with Tommy. I hesitate to ask "hong shao rou, you mei you?", because I've forgotten most the of Mandarin Chinese I learned in college. Don't want to start a conversation I can't finish.

            3. OMG The Orient ROCKS! My family and sibling's families all come here. All the Chinese families gather here. I'm Chinese and I've been all over Asia, HK, China etc. They have one of the best dimsums i've ever eaten. This is also the general consensus of all my Asian friends.
              The reason why there isn't another menu is because the American Palate just doesn't demand it. Most white people just stick with the old American Chinese menus. These are menus that are all ready on a template from years ago. They don't add many "REAL Chinese food" because
              usually make the "what is this" face. They do have many more dishes than most American Chinese places. Just ask what the specials are they will try to accommodate you. The waiters are all really good decent hard working folk. They just may not have a great command of the English language. but Tommy is the best. Just because you throw a few Chinglish dishes out there doesn't mean you know what to ask for. It just makes it worse, because now they assume you can read what the specials are on the wall! Oh and btw, they are Cantonese. Not Mandarin.

              3 Replies
              1. re: jade628

                I beg to differ. The Orient, while good for LI, doesn't compare with the average restaurant in Flushing. Their hot and sour soup is bland, devoid of many ingredients. Their clams with black bean sauce also lacks flavor and ingredients. Their chicken with ginger and scallions casserole is unique for LI, but the chicken is pure white slices, I guess to suit LI tastes, not on the bone, not cooked inside the pot, but added afterward. Get a noodle dish and it is 95% noodle and only about 5% beef, chicken or whatever. Their dim sum are limited in number and served from the kitchen not the cart and to say they are "one of the best dimsums" is a far stretch . While this post is mostly critical, I do frequent this restaurant since in "the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king" to quote Shaw, I believe. So why is this restaurant great? In the interest of fairness, I am not Chinese.

                1. re: budcar

                  Well, apparently, if you are not Chinese, you're not qualified to comment on anything but the "Chinglish" dishes your limited taste buds and knowledge could understand. And apparently, I'm in the same boat.

                2. re: jade628

                  I'm cantonese also, I used to go here for weekend dim sum and family gatherings. Haven't been here for a few years, it's typical of good Chinese restaurants on Long Island to have a high turnover of chefs and staff so the food can be mixed from visit to visit. Not sure if this is one of the places that are full of themselves even when the food becomes subpar (i.e. Fortune Wheel, the now-defunct HK Seafood House, and that place on Stewart Ave in Bethpage that went from great to suck in record time).

                  But I would have to disagree and say that Queens dim sum is better than theirs. A personal family favorite dish is the Cantonese Fried Chicken(Pei Pah Gai), not sure what the English for the dish is. It's the double fried whole chicken with the shrimp chips. The Walnut Fried Shrimp with the white sauce is good too.