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First bites: The Orient in Bethpage

Dining room at The Orient, Bethpage

Dining room at The Orient, Bethpage Photo Credit: Newsday/Joan Reminick

No reopening or debut on Long Island has been as anticipated by diners as the return of The Orient. The popular Chinese restaurant had been closed for renovation, shutting one of the very few oases for the great cuisine in either Nassau or Suffolk.

To judge by the 90-minute wait on a recent, rainy weekend night, you can be sure the pent-up demand continues.

More important, it's worth the wait and more. The reborn restaurant's dining room looks sleek and streamlined, a bit more contemporary than before. But the prices remain very fair considering the quality. Unless you're going for lobster, filet mignon, shark's fin or something particularly exotic, figure about $35 per person for an ample, satisfying meal. The budget-minded can find plenty at less than that.

The Orient really is two restaurants in one. You can order all the familiar stuff, from fine cold noodles with sesame sauce and scallion pancakes to basic chow mein and egg drop soup.

But what makes The Orient special are owner Tommy Tan's specials. There's usually one or more of seafood, chicken, beef or pork. And this is where The Orient becomes a candidate for best Chinese restaurant in either county.

Sliced, delicate flounder paired with yellow leeks and spurred by a rush of ginger is one of  the winners. Likewise, the remarkable, big shrimp in a rich, ivory mayonnaise sauce, surrounded by walnuts. And the kitchen definitely knows dumplings, steamed or fried.

Each could make you a regular. But, then again, that tangerine chicken could, too. The fortune cookies are fresh and so's The Orient.

The Orient, 623 Hicksville Rd., Bethpage; 516-822-1010 or 516-822-5610.

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