Long Beach @ Dempsey Seafood Restaurant
seafood ・ asian
The greenery and colonial buildings of Dempsey Hill recall the days when the area was a former nutmeg plantation and home to army barracks. Long Beach’s exterior—with a red-tile roof and terrace with ceiling fans—suggests a continuation of that imagery but the interiors have been fitted to recreate a standard, Chinese restaurant with mirrored accents, functional furniture, stark tube-lighting, gurgling tanks with live seafood, and without a whole lot of obvious character. The lack of over-conceptualised design and the relaxed ambience, however, actually contribute to the enjoyment of the food.
Utopia for seafood lovers might be the phrase that comes to mind after a meal here because the food, without exception, soars, a procession of cleverly conceived, flawlessly executed dishes.
The geoduck sashimi, on a bed of ice, comes in two concentric rings. The slivers in the outer ring, from the siphon of the clam, are thin and tender, to be eaten raw, and have a pleasing crunch; the stubbier pieces in the inner ring, taken from the area around the clam’s organs, are best dipped into the accompanying superior broth, giving them added, unexpected dimensions of consistency and taste.
Shredded clumps of cereal-and-egg floss blanket the golden stripe lobster, but uncover the crustacean and you’ll be rewarded with meat that is perfectly cooked, strong with the flavours of its main ingredients, a clean, unassuming dish that rightly doesn’t try to mask the freshness of the lobster through seasoning or complex sauces.
The staff efficiently remove the shell of the Alaskan king crab, making eating it effortless—and clean. This dish deserves a special mention, the fine, confident preparation of the crab complemented by a white pepper sauce that could easily be served as a soup—creamy, redolent of butter, celery, a little liqueur, and the teasing, pleasing warmth of the white pepper—that, while not competing with the flavour of the crab, enhances it through a synergistic relationship.
As deftly prepared are the vegetable dishes—light, clean, and crisp—and the desserts that are refreshing and never too sweet.
The wine selection is decent, with choices from New Zealand, Chile, Germany, France, Italy, and the United States on the list. House pours include Karri Oak Chardonnay, and One Tree Plain Shiraz Cabernet Merlot, both from Australia, but note that all wine here is available only by the bottle.
How refreshing to be in a restaurant where the staff aren’t automatons, but have real character. They are funny, quick, charming, and have a complete grasp of the intricacies of the multiple menu options and a finely attuned understanding of each other’s roles. The choreography of the serving and clearing of dishes is so seamless that you almost don’t notice it happening. One particularly nice touch is the preparation of the shellfish—stripped and served in such a way that the typical, messy fingered shellfish-eating experience ends up being one notable for its spotlessness.
The seafood is not cheap, but given the quality of the cooking, it’s worth the money. Expect to pay about $100 per person, including wine, when ordering a la carte. Double that if number if you choose big-ticket items like the Alaskan crab. The set menus are much more reasonable option.