When The Orient was being built last year, I couldn't wait to have another Chinese food option. Every place I tried in Bel Air either didn't deliver, always messed up my order, or simply had bad food.
When I moved to New York City in June, it was a great regret that I wouldn't get to try The Orient. But all that changed a couple Fridays ago.
I had to come into town to pick up a tuxedo for my cousin's wedding, so I texted Kirsten about meeting up. After inhaling some caffeine at Shamrock, we walked down the hill to Main Street's newest attraction.
On the way we passed Commissioner Robert Reier wearing his Ravens purple (sorry about Week 2—go Eagles!) and walking his dog. Dr. Reier told Kirsten he looked forward to a detailed recap of our trip to the restaurant—yes, restaurant; it's not your typical Chinese take-out.
As first impressions go, I found the "Grand Opening" balloons flailing outside the door to be a bit tacky. Once inside, though, the decor felt less Chuck E. Cheese's and more chow lo mein. It was just after 3 p.m., so a group of three in the next booth were the only other customers.
A server quickly asked Kirsten and I about drinks; we both ordered water. Not a minute later, another server asked us the same thing, and again we ordered water. I wasn't sure if this was a test, staff confusion or just good service. I'll assume the lattermost option.
Not long after, two glasses of water arrived. One with lemon, one without. Kirsten, of course, grabbed the glass with lemon. "Fine," I thought. "I don't need a lemon in my water."
Now to the food. For me, this was easy. I always order Gen. Tso's chicken upon my first trip to any new Chinese food spot. (At The Orient, it's called "Gen. Chu's." It's unclear whether Gen. Tso and Gen. Chu were the same person, battlefield compatriots, or archenemies. One thing is clear, though: Their ancestors inherited a damn good chicken recipe.)
Kirsten wanted sushi. I don't love sushi, I told her. But I like it. Enough that I would sample one of each kind of sushi she ordered. It was more of a notification than a request, since I was paying. A little treat for my favorite Patch editor.
"I feel like we should probably get The Orient roll."
Get the roll named after the restaurant? Good call, Kirsten. I like your thinking.
"I think I'll get the California roll, the Philly roll and the Orient roll and it will make me very happy," she volunteered. "Even though I just want all of it."
Fair enough. When the third server of the afternoon came to our table, we ordered. Kirsten, her sushi buffet, and me, the Gen. Chu's chicken with brown rice.
A few minutes later, Kirsten's sushi—our sushi—arrived. They must have known we were sharing, because not only did they wait to bring out my chicken, but they also brought two plates. Though that didn't stop Kirsten from sliding the entire tray onto her placemat. The server and I quickly reconciled her mistake.
The plan was to for me to sample one roll from each of the three flavors, and possibly a fourth roll from my favorite.
I first tried the Philly roll, and I have to say: Not impressed. Not because it wasn't good quality, I just don't like cream cheese. For people who do like cream cheese, who do enjoy quality-made sushi rolls of the Philly variety, I think I'm safe to recommend to you this option.
I tried the California roll second. I would be going Monday to LA, so it seemed like a fitting choice. So fitting, in fact, that I loved it. It may have been the best California roll I ever had. (The only other ones I probably ever tried were at Wegmans and Sushi Hana in Towson, FYI. So small sample size.)
Last but not least came the crown jewel: The Orient roll.
OK, it wasn't really the crown jewel. I liked it, also recommend it, but the California roll still reigned supreme for me.
My chicken didn't arrive until after we cleared all the rolls, but it was worth the wait.
This wasn't your typical loaded-with-sauce, stuffed-with-filler, is-this-chicken-or-dog? Gen. Chu's chicken. This was, did-they-rob-the-Perdue-family?, wow-real-white-meat-that-I-can-chew chicken. That is to say, it was delicious. The outside was crispy, the inside was exactly as I described in the previous sentence. (Stop drooling and pay attention, please.)
My brown rice, which came on the side in a cup-sized bowl, was equally satisfying. I'm a fan of getting my rice on the side instead of stuffed under/onto/next to the chicken, as delicious as sauce-soaked brown rice may be. I want to decide how saucy my rice is.
Between my self-made sushi sampler and the general's generous portion, I had plenty for a to-go dish. (They wrap it up for you and put it in a tidy brown bag!)
Did I mention my fortune cookie? No I did not.
Your principles mean more to you than any money or success.
Talk about mind-readers. With proclamations this accurate, who needs Mrs. Barrington? (No offense, "Alice.")
Kirsten's fortune? "Keep your plans secret for now."
Do I recommend The Orient? Have you not been reading? Of course I do. Even with a one-lemon-per-table limit.
Now if I could just find some decent Chinese on 6th Avenue.
Have you eaten at The Orient? Tell us about about your experience in the comments.