Long Island's Chinese-food drought has officially ended with the reopening of The Orient in Bethpage.
When it opened in 2002, The Orient was one of the first on Long Island to serve authentic Chinese food in addition to the usual egg rolls, spare ribs and moo shu pork. And it introduced such now-standard dishes as Grand Marnier shrimp (deep fried shrimp topped with mayonnaise sauce and garnished with candied walnuts and steamed broccoli) and sauteed snow-pea leaves.
But what made dining there a singular experience was the presence of owner Tommy Tan, whose boundless enthusiasm — for the food and for his customers — made any meal there a celebratory banquet.
Tan said that the main reason he shut his doors on March 22 was that his employees, most of them Chinese-born Queens residents, were wary of coming to work. (Other Chinese-restaurant owners who recently reopened echoed this observation.)
Ingredients were the other big problem. At first, Tan’s suppliers were entirely shut down. Then they moved to making deliveries to Long island twice a week. This wasn’t enough for Tan, who moves a lot of chow fun and bok choy. He was also unwilling to make do with some frozen provisions. “My cooks told me they don’t stir-fry right.”
Two weeks ago, suppliers started calling, telling him not only that they could make regular deliveries, but also that most of his competitors were now open.
Tan and company were not idle during their respite, repainting the dining room and replacing its ceiling, buying some new furniture and a new neon sign. “When you are open you have no time for this work,” he said. “When the restaurant is open, you can't move all the furniture to one side, then move it back.”
It will be awhile before customers can experience the renovated dining room. In the meantime, The Orient will be doing takeout. There will be delivery to Bethpage, Levittown and Hicksville and, on weekends, Plainview.
For now, the restaurant will be open seven days a week, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., but Tan said that might change if the staff can’t handle it.
The Orient is at 623 Hicksville Rd., Bethpage, 516-822-1010, theorientny.com