The other night we had a babysitter midweek (because she was getting ready to move to NYC and wanted to see our kids before she went—boo! We’ll miss her!) so I cajoled hubby into driving a bit and trying Oriental Inn. Several people have recommended it over the years and I was intrigued by the things I read online.
First thing you notice is the completely old school feel of the place. This is what Chinese restaurants were like in the 70s—totally over decorated and dark wood chairs. It was straight out of central casting for Chinese restaurants. But even though you can tell it has been there a long time, and the outside is maybe a bit run down, the dining room has a ton of charm.
It is also one of those old school menus with everything under the sun on it so it took us awhile to peruse. Our very friendly server brought us a bowl of fried wontons to munch on (a tad stale) and took our drink orders.
We had a hard time deciding what to get, but we wanted to try a couple of courses, so we got hot and sour soup ($2.25) and an order of crab Rangoon ($4.95) to start. Several of the things I had read said their crab Rangoon was good so we figured what the heck. Eh, I didn’t really care for the soup. It wasn’t particularly hot or sour and actually had a taste that was almost like tomatoes which was weird for hot and sour soup. Our server did come by and ask if we wanted some hot sauce to put in it (and I didn’t even say anything) so maybe they’re aware. Nice big pieces of tofu though and lots of egg flowers in there. I would try a different soup next time.
The crab Rangoon was really good though. They are fried, but I liked them because they weren’t greasy at all (can’t say the same for the complimentary wontons) and the cream cheese filling was light and tasted of crab, but wasn’t overly fishy. Hubby found them slightly addicting and ate the majority of them.
We decided to split an entrée because they looked pretty big and it was a good choice. We ordered form the “house specialties” list (anything to narrow it down) and got the Szechuan combination ($12.95). The dish as listed had beef, shrimp and scallops, although we substituted chicken for the scallops. It is served in a hot pepper garlic sauce with veggies (green pepper, carrots, onions and celery) and peanuts. My first bite just about choked me because it was so hot. I must have gotten a piece of the very spicy dried chilies that were also mixed in there. Once I paid closer attention, I made sure not to eat large pieces of them and all was good. The meat and shrimp was all very good, and the dish was very meat heavy. All of it was very tender. We were amazed how well they cooked a shrimp since so many places in this town seen to have a problem with it. As I mentioned, it had a good spice to it as well. They also do a nice job with using fresh orange slices in their presentation. We got some fried rice and some steamed rice and even though I tend to prefer steamed rice, I think it would get the fried rice here. It is not heavily seasoned so it doesn’t compete with the meat dish when eaten together. And it had just the right amount of stickiness.
Our server was super nice and was always checking in on us for drink refills. I loved that she also knew exactly what was in each dish we asked about and how it was prepared. Sometimes this is difficult information to get in a Chinese restaurant and with so many things on the menu; it is very helpful to be able to ask questions. There was also a fair amount of people in there for a Tuesday night. Oh, and I liked that they had “dinner specials” much like typical lunch specials (they have those too) so you can get an entrée, rice, soup and something fried for a reduced price if you want. We ordered a la carte because the choices are more basic on the specials menu.
For a little dessert, they give you a fortune cookie and some fresh fruit--mine had a bit of a weird fortune. But it made me laugh anyway. If this place were closer to me, we would certainly try it more often. I am hoping to get over there for lunch one of these days too.
Side note, on the way home, I took this shot of what was a very popular hot dog cart called Garcia’s. I notice the crowd on our way to the restaurant and on the way home. When I posted a picture on instagram, a bunch of you chimed in about Garcia and his bacon wrapped dogs. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before. But now we are looking forward to trying it as well.
1421 North Arlington