SHERMAN Tang glances across the street from his banquette at Cafe Flipp. The newly-ordained restaurateur observes the workmen weaving in and out and around Beirut, the Lebanese restaurant opposite his. As the scaffolding disappears from Lan Kwai Fong's newest baby, Tang takes a drag of his cigarette. ''What do you think? Will it make it?'' he said. Before an opinion was offered, he answered. ''There's room for everyone.'' Is there room for Tang? He leaves no doubt. Self-confidence is not wanting in the camera-shy 36-year-old Hongkong native. Cafe Flipp, he believes, has the right location, the right pricing, the right landlord, a high-energy, experienced staff and a distinctive menu that defies food thrills. ''It's just simple, fresh food,'' he said. ''No gimmicks.'' When Melbourne-born Darren Wightman was anointed to become the executive chef, the 28-year-old was given minimal directions about food. ''They said make it fresh, eclectic, and with Mediterranean influences,'' he said. ''I liked that freedom. And the challenge.'' He agreed with Tang and partners on the culinary direction - a casual menu for the ground floor cafe - everything from bacon and eggs (served anytime), Caesar salad and burgers to crispy vegetables with dip and leek tart. More serious fare goes upstairs along with tablecloths. Roast chicken and grilled tuna hold court with pastas, vegetable entrees, and desserts (pecan pie, chocolate cake, ricotta cheesecake) that turn diners into misers when it comes to sharing plates. ''I don't have a sweet tooth,'' said Tang, whose taste is inked indelibly on the menus. ''But I like desserts.'' Such is his fondness for creme brulee (baked custard) that he and Wightman agreed that in order to achieve the proper sheen and texture of the sugar-glazed top, the dessert needs to be finished off with a blow torch instead of a commercial-style broiler. ''Sherman is a garlic guy,'' said Wightman. ''He likes food with a kick. But he's not fussy. When he sends something back, we talk about it.'' Tang is (pick one) an engineer/medical doctor/real estate executive/owner of nine tea shops/full-time restaurant-lover. He is as expansive as his waistline, erudite, and comes over as a good-time guy. When he met Eric Piras, a French restaurateur, the chemistry was instant. (The fact that Piras, Flipp's general manager, owned a restaurant in Paris that was canonised by Michelin star-givers, didn't go unmentioned.) When Tang hears the litany about Hongkong taipans and tai-tais dabbling in restaurants, his happy hour expression turns almost dour. ''This isn't a hobby,'' he said, for a second time. ''Cafe Flipp is my business. I love food and restaurants. And I want to make money.'' Unfortunately, he added, studying his midriff, ''there isn't much I won't eat. But it has to be good.''