It was midafternoon when I arrived at The Orient in Bethpage, newly reopened after an extensive remodeling. A woman waiting to be seated gave the place a once-over and then turned to me: “Now, I’m worried the food won’t be as good as before. Everything is always the best at hole-in-the-walls.”
Nobody could call the place a hole-in-the-wall now. In fact, it was pretty darned gorgeous: marble tiled floors, dramatic black mosaic tiles along one wall, upholstered booths along another, architectural ceilings, colorful contemporary pendant lights. The entryway had been moved south, and a large reception area replaced what used to be a small party room.
I was thrown, for a moment, by the absence of round tables. No, I was assured, all the square tables open up to become rounds, crucial for seating large family groups. Remodeled restrooms were a huge improvement.
From what I observed, the crew was running back and forth from the kitchen with the same fervor as in the past while the dining room vibrated with chatter. Owner Tommy Tan, who knows me, was a reassuring presence as he greeted old customers, every one of whom looked as glad as I was to be back.
And while it was true that, with its new look, The Orient might easily be mistaken for a high-fashion Asian Fusion spot, its authentic Hong Kong-style cuisine remained blessedly unchanged. How good it was to savor dim sum favorites ($2.25 to $3.75) such as lotus leaf-wrapped sticky rice, crystal shrimp dumplings and steamed roast pork buns.
Good as when The Orient was just a hole-in-the-wall.
The Orient is at 623 Hicksville Rd., Bethpage, 516-822-1010.
At the renovated Orient, owner Tommy Tan (standing, in aqua shirt) chats with customers.