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–Leslie Brenner,
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Fearless Critic restaurant review
DC
Food
Feel
Price
8.9
7.0
$40
Chinese
Casual restaurant

Hours
Sun–Thu 11:00am–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 11:00am–11:00pm

Features Kid-friendly, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.orientaleast.com

Silver Spring, MD
1312 E. West Hwy.
Silver Spring, MD
(301) 608-0030
Oriental East
A dim sum find in the Maryland suburbs

What will it take to cure the multiple personality disorder that has come to define the Chinese restaurant in America? Even in the places—like the Maryland suburbs—where Chinese communities thrive, and where good Chinese food is legion, the secret Chinese menus are kept largely out of sight unless you speak the language or are part of the ethnic ingroup. Oriental East’s pink paper carry-out menu, for instance, is a roll call of Chinese-American slop: chow mein, sweet-and-sour pork, “orange chicken,” combination fried rice, egg rolls, fortune cookies.

But the big round tables of Chinese customers that frequent this cafeteria-like strip-mall restaurant—whose only attempt at décor is a set of mirrors bearing cartoonish Chinese scenes in garish shades of neon—aren’t eating anything from that menu. Instead, their meals look classically Cantonese: a cold salad of gently resilient jellyfish and pig’s foot; a delicately steamed whole fish with garlic and ginger; a bowl of congee with pork and preserved egg; a bowl of marvelously silky bean curd or tender beef tripe; or a plate of bright, shiny Chinese greens, fired by a wok for only a moment. Some of these dishes are concealed within a section of the menu entitled “House Specialties,” but many of them, including the specials of the day, don’t appear on any menu—instead, they’re discussed with Chinese customers at the table.

Weekend dim sum is the great equalizer, replacing the arm-wrestling match of trying to order “what they’ve got on that table over there” with a simple game of food-cart show-and-tell. Come between 11am and 1pm, and expect to wait for a while before your number is called. Among the dishes that should be snapped up as soon as they roll by are tender slices of squid, plated with pickled vegetables and tinged red by a deep marinade; chicken feet, rich and gelatinous, steeping in a profoundly flavorful soy-based sauce; pork, shrimp, and dried scallop dumplings with expertly textured rice wrappers; or sticky rice penetrated by flavor from its lotus-leaf wrapper. A sweet-savory treat rarely seen in America is the golden baked pork bun, whose sugary, slightly underdone dough envelops a soupy nucleus of salty red meat. This Cantonese feast—one worth meditating on—will rarely run more than $10 per person after tax. For all those that complain about the questionable value propositions of top DC-area restaurants, we invite you to Silver Spring.

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