We’re certain that the restaurant’s self-description as a (Taiwanese and) specifically vegetarian restaurant has caused some potential customers to skip Demi. It’s also easy to overlook, not being stylish nor in a particularly good location. But this is all fine with us, because it’s hard enough to get a table some evenings without the whole world knowing what a great place it is. So here’s the little secret. While there are more than a few tasty meatless items on the menu, such as bitter mustard greens paired with toothsome milky beancurd skin, vegetarian cuisine is by no means the focus, as a quick glance around at other tables will reveal: mouthwatering plates of tender beef or mutton, crispy duck, succulent shellfish, and fatty moo sam chan (pork belly), just to name a few. For such a small place, Demi’s menu really is huge. Still, we’ve yet to find a dish we didn’t like or felt wasn’t worth the money. Maybe a small criticism might be a “muddy” tasting seabass on our last visit, but that’s the nature of farm-raised fish. The dish itself, a whole fish prepared “Szechwan” style with soybeans, ground pork and tofu, was excellent and a reasonable. Also, the above-mentioned moo sam chan is not for (if you’ll excuse the pun) the faint of heart. Having said this, the meat/fat is pre-sliced quite thin, and the broth is unusually light, while the bitter greens are chopped small and, also unusually, studded with a fair amount of meat. We normally begin with their scrumptious stubby shrimp-and-pork dumplings that are pan-fried on one side. Another starter, clam soup, is simply perfect in its simplicity of clear, clean broth and fresh, plump clams. One of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, and rightly so, is prawns “baked” in salt; the shrimps are topped with chunks of garlic and peppers and are crunchy, sweet and coated in addictive salt. For a change of pace from Demi’s superb beef dishes (such as fried with black pepper), try deep-fried “mutton” that is lightly coated and then fried with basil leaves; the meat is unexpectedly tender and perks up when dipped in an accompanying powdery salt-and-pepper blend. We also encourage you to try it with the awesome homemade roasted chili sauce that comes on every table and to wash it all down with a big bottle of Tsingtao beer. Service is attentive and helpful, not at all what you usually experience in similar small, standalone Chinese restaurants. But perhaps that’s because the owners eat there as well. It certainly explains the great food. Corkage B100.
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