The reopening of The Orient sparked a restaurant version of the Oklahoma Land Rush. Now, it's as if the starting gun goes off every day. Asked about reservations, a waitress replied, "No. Always full."
Tommy Tan's updated and brightened dining room earns its devotees, who patiently pack coveted tables from midday on. Tan, the on-site and hands-on owner, has enough customers to fill two eateries.
But The Orient already is that.
If you are anonymous and rely on the printed menu, the experience may range from fair or not-so to good.
That extends to service, too. There are nights when the line goes outside, the staff is overwhelmed, and the setting resembles an unhinged triage unit. As the chaos moderates, attentiveness improves. Reach Tan himself, and you may learn about specials.
They're the basic trade-offs.
First, weekend dim sum: a fine selection, with carts carrying dumplings, buns, rolls, noodles, rice, more. Try the steamed roast pork bun, pan-fried leek dumpling, filigreed taro crescent, crystal seafood dumpling, steamed shrimp rice noodle, sticky rice in lotus leaf, crisp spring roll, shrimp-stuffed eggplant, lotus-paste bun -- all reliable. And consider congee, salt-and-pepper shrimp, clams with black bean sauce, squid with chili sauce. Later in the day, ask for the excellent big shrimp with walnuts in an ivory-hued mayonnaise sauce, aromatic steamed sea bass with ginger and scallions and crunchy fried chicken with roasted garlic. Pick the delicate cubed flounder with yellow leeks, the bacon-and-raisin fried rice, tangerine chicken, baked salted chicken, tender lobster in a chili-spurred sauce.
Disappointing soups, dull cheese-and-crab fried wontons, dry roast pork ends; standard cold noodles sesame sauce, pan-fried noodles, scallion pancake, fried soft-shell crab, minced chicken lettuce wrap, fried pork dumplings, steamed vegetable dumplings. Skippable filet mignon.
THE BOTTOM LINE