Posted by: dinainsuburbia | September 12, 2008

the orient- chinese restaurant in Bethpage, Long Island.. and memories of chinatown

Tonight I was all set to grill up some NY Strip Steaks and a lonely lobster tail I had in the freezer… but my darling husband had a different idea, “lets go out to eat”, he said… before I could say “good idea” I had my bag, a sippy cup for Maddie, and my keys… we were out the door.  

But where to go?  I didn’t want more typical Long Island, Mediocre Italian food… blech.  And I didn’t want to spend big bucks either.  It had to be somewhere we could take Maddie too… I was totally head-scratching, but  then I remembered The Orient.  My mom and step-dad had taken us there earlier in the Summer.  They had heard about it from a musician friend.  

Here’s a little back story- those of you that know me, know that my mom & step-dad are musicians.  When they were big into the club-date scene, they would go to Chinatown (in NYC) for a late night meal after their gig.  Their favorite restaurant, Sun Lok Kee at 13 Mott St, was open until 4am.  Sun Lok Kee was a REAL Chinese restaurant frequented by mostly (shocker) Chinese people.  The restaurant featured big, round tables and diners would sit together, seated where ever there was room.  

My mom and step dad learned about authentic Chinese food at those big, round tables.  They would inevitably sit down with a group of Chinese people and ask the waiters what they were serving to this one and that one.  My mom started to like Chinese food, and the restaurant, so much that she’d take me there for dinner; sometimes on the weekends when she was off, but mostly during the week.  I fondly remember driving into NYC in my Step Dad’s mini-van with my stomach rumbling… circling around Mott St to get a parking spot, and always cracking a joke about Dr. Toothy the dentist (I swear, that was what the sign said).  I first went there when I was about 7 or 8 years old… 

In Chinatown we fell in love with clams in black bean sauce, salt & pepper shrimp (or squid, or porkchop), chicken with asparagus, green chives, chinese broccoli, watercress, crabs cantonese.. etc etc.  My mom, the most daring eater I know, would try ANYTHING the water gave to her- duck feet, shark-fin soup, razor clams, etc…. 

Six or Seven years ago, Sun Lok Kee closed.  The owner, Pak, died.  Pak was such a kind, genial man… my mom and I still talk about him.  Since the restaurant closed, we haven’t had Chinese food as good.  

That’s where The Orient comes in.. if not as good as Sun Lok Kee it’s pretty close.  They have two menus- one in Chinese (the good stuff) and one in English (typical “American” style).  John, Maddie, and I FEASTED tonight- house special wonton soup with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in (shrimp, chicken, pork, veggies, etc), a dim sum assortment (they do a dim sum brunch- I have to remember that… a Sunday morning dim sum fest would be GREAT), clams with black bean sauce, green chives sauteed with garlic, salt & pepper pork chop, and a minced pork & tofu dish that was incredibly spicy.  

I know we totally over ordered (as I sit here, I’m eating the rest of the chives… cold)… but it was all so delish.  Even Maddie got into it- eating bits of pork and veggies.  

I am so glad John suggested going out- we hardly do it anymore… we don’t want to waste money, and too often we spend money on a meal that is mediocre and disappointing.  Tonight was soooo worth it.  

So, if you are a Long Island Chinese food lover.. take the ride into Bethpage and check out The Orient…


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