My friends Bruce and Marty told us about Oriental East on the edge of downtown Silver Spring in the “The Blairs” complex off of East West Highway.
They both love good food and a bargain so when they both gave a “Thumbs Up!” particularly to the “combo” menu section at Oriental East, we had to check it out. (FYI – Bruce and Marty are not the only ones giving Oriental East a “Thumbs Up!” – Washingtonian magazine has put them in the “Best Bargain Restaurant” category every year since 2002!) One big advantage of Oriental East quickly became apparent, there’s a huge adjacent free parking lot – unlike the main drag in Silver Spring where parking can be difficult to find and frequently you end up paying to park. Inside, it’s a bright and attractive dining room with over 3 dozen large size tables (no booths), tall ceilings, and wall size windows. Over the course of our meal, it became apparent easily half to two-thirds of the customers in the busy restaurant were Asian, many included at least three – and sometimes four! – generations of customers and the owners gave them a hearty personal welcome as they came in. When an Asian restaurant is popular with Asian customers, that’s saying something!
The menu is similar to what you’ll find in many Chinese restaurants. The highlighted “House Recommendations” are notable because – unlike many comparable “Special” lists at other Chinese restaurants – more than half of Oriental East’s highlighted “Recommendations” are priced under $12). We found the bargain price “Combination” section of the menu at the end with 18 dinner options which include choice of a cup of soup (Hot & Sour, Egg Drop, or Wonton), an Eggroll plus (choice of white or fried rice) and a mini dessert (plus hot tea if you request it!)
John decided to try #11, Szchuan Chicken ($9.99) from the Combo menu, Paul went with “Sweet & Sour Pork” ($9.99) from the combo menu but that adventuresome, Tom ordered the Stuffed Eggplant in Black Bean Sauce ($12) from the “Recommendations” offerings plus talked us into sharing two appetizers – Fried Shrimp Dumplings ($5) and Fried Shrimp Cakes ($4). (FYI – I won’t even make a big deal about the “Suffering Bastard” cocktail that Tom couldn’t stop himself from giving a try! He declared that it was like a Manhattan with fruit juice added and managed to finish that off regardless! <Wink>)
The hot & sour soup arrived quickly with some fried won tons along with plum sauce and hot mustard (Despite my warnings to Paul that the hot mustard was incredibly hot and deserved some respect, his face turned multiple colors and he gulped down some water when he ignored my warnings and got a good amount of the mustard on the won tons !). The hot & sour arrived with a hot temperature and was tasty (though admittedly not the most memorable version that John has ever had!)
Our appetizers were quite tasty; John & Tom both gave a “Thumbs Up!” to the Shrimp Dumplings
Paul’s comment when his “Sweet & Sour” Pork arrived was (pretty appropriately!) “That’s a lot of food!” ; he liked what he ordered but ended up taking home half of his rice and pork!
I suspect that the “combo” portion of Szechuan Chicken was less than I would have received than with the non-combo version but proved just right (considering everything else!) Like the Hot & Sour soup, the Szechuan was nice but not overly “hot” from a spice level perspective and it wasn’t the best he’s ever had – but exceeded his expectations of a $10 combo! Similarly, the veggie egg roll wasn’t greasy at all and, with the addition of some plum sauce, got eaten up!
The surprise of the Stuffed Eggplant was that each piece of Chinese Eggplant was stuffed with a shrimp – and – slivers of ginger! (Tom is a big fan of ginger!) While he initially seemed to be headed in the direction of taking half of eggplant home, it proved so “Thumbs Up!” worthy, that Tom ended up polishing off all of his serving of Stuffed Eggplant!
The staff at Oriental East was attentive and friendly (much more so than you’d might expect at restaurant with a “Best Bargain” reputation! Water glasses were refilled and used plates removed unobtrusively. Our waitress brought us our combo “mini” dessert which turned out to be four almond cookies in addition to the traditional fortune cookies! (The “Happiness is the best cosmetic” advice in one fortune cookie got Paul to start smiling more! <Wink>)
After our meal, it was easy to understand why Oriental East has received kudos from Washingtonian magazine for the past 12 years and why it’s been evaluated by Zagat for the past 6 years and why it’s earned a “Thumbs Up!” from DiningOUT as well!
FACTS: Oriental East; Silver Spring; 1312 East West Highway; (301) 608-0030; http://www.orientaleast.com/ ; Open 7 days a week for lunch & dinner (11 am to 10 pm); Full Bar; Vegetarian options; abundant adjacent free parking