Dan Hong and Paul Donnelly are constantly on a mission to break the mould. You know they’ve succeeded when you can’t encapsulate the kind of food that comes out of the kitchen at Ms.G’s. Asian? Well yes, but that’s broad. Vietnamese? Getting closer, for sure. But go to Vietnam and try and find me a banh mi burger or cheeseburger spring rolls.
The food at Ms.G’s isn’t that normal after all, is it? I first visited three years ago, and at the time decided that it’s one of those restaurants that are well-worth a return. I just didn’t expect it to take three years to get there. Well, here we are!
Date Last Visited: 24/2/2016
Address: 155 Victoria Street Potts Point, NSW
Recommended Dish(es): mini banh mi, sweet & sour ribs; The BOSS
Ms.G’s A La Carte – 2016
My first visit was to try out a special menu for the Mid-Autumn festival, and while I did laud the chef’s work on that prix-fixe meal, I felt that I hadn’t truly visited until I got a taste of Ms.G’s standard menu. It was time to complete the experience. I’m going to jump right into the food here, but for those who would like to read a more thorough introduction, feel free to jump to this section.
I wasn’t kidding about the cheeseburger spring rolls. Here they are, and uh yeah, they taste pretty much like a cheeseburger except instead of the bun, you get crispy hot spring roll skin. To be more precise, I thought – and I actually mean this in a good way – the filling tasted almost like a McDonald’s cheeseburger, with the pickles included.
It’s worth getting – even if you’re just trying it. Warning: it comes hot!
Next up are a series of mini banh mi or banh mi sliders. I’ve had my eye on these for several years now; seeing them in front of me was like a small dream finally coming true. There are two variations – pork belly, or katsu chicken. I opted for the chicken and immediately thought “shame this isn’t burger-sized”. The chicken sports a good deal of crunch, the meat’s succulent, and well-flavoured not just on its own with a hit of spices, but also by that spicy mayo generously applied. The pickled carrots and cilantro provide a bit of that “Vietnamese touch”, a spot of acidity, freshness and crunch.
I wasn’t as much a fan of the bun – they were a bit tough for me, and I prefer my buns soft and fluffy. That said, I can appreciate the usage of buns with more tenacity, as that’s technically a defining attribute of banh mi baguettes. The comparison still isn’t quite the same (these buns are a lot “breadier” and less crusty) but it would be a bit weird to use milk buns and still call them mini banh mi.
As for the pork belly, I can’t speak for myself but it was well-received by those who had it. I think you’ll be fine either way.
Coming in a portion that’s all too small for my liking is the prawn toast. I had a similar dish during my first visit…and I think that was the better dish. This time, the sesame seeds rendered the whole mouthful as a bit too chewy and nutty. The sesame tends to compete quite strongly with the tender, delicate flavour of the prawns beneath, and while it doesn’t win, it ekes out too much territory as it is. I also know that prawn toasts can be far more flavourful (reigning champ: Salaryman), though the yuzu aioli does go some way to add a bit of that extra flavour the dish needs. I wouldn’t see the need to order this one again.
Leading the charge for mains following the snacks is the fragrant red curry of snow crab w/rice noodles. This is the kind of dish that I would expect to be up my alley, and it is…for the most part.
First and foremost: those noodles. Slippery, chewy and with heaps of bite. I do love a noodle with a good texture, and this delivers on the money. Second: that snow crab itself – redolent with the freshness of the sea, tender and soaking up that curry without any faltering. The curry is where things get a bit interesting. Yes, it’s flavourful, yes, it’s spicy (to a degree that may want to make chilli intolerants think twice), and yeah, generally I quite like it. However…there’s one particular spice for which its preponderance is dominant – and that’s star anise. Way. Too. Strong. Dial that back, and the flavour train will be back on track.
One other small niggle – there’s an overabundance of curry leaf in the dish. It’s just all a bit too much honestly – too much…aroma.
So it’s a curry that goes slightly overboard, but that’s cool if you can handle the flavour bomb. I certainly wouldn’t ask for it to be reduced too much – I still like a good kick!
Look, we can either argue about this or jump to the inevitable elephant-in-the-room conclusion: if fried chicken is on the menu, chances are I’m going to order it. If the entire table agrees to do so? Then that’s 100%.
The fried chicken at Ms.G’s is…interesting. There’s good and bad to it. The good: flavour. It’s intense, briny, and almost smoky. The sambal mayo was barely even needed. The bad: the texture – the flesh is indeed juicy as advertised, however the skin was really tough and chewy. That’s where the sambal mayo is actually needed. A tough barrier to get through, which is a shame as the skin is one of my favourite parts of fried chicken. It’s okay though – I’d still eat the whole dish’s worth anyway. Just saying.
If there was a dish I’m more torn on than anything else, it would be the stir fried udon noodles. On the one hand, it’s a plate of carbs that taste the part – spicy mince, starchy noodles, crunchy scratchings. It’s a veritable bowl of flavour and fat, no doubt about it.
I’m just not so sold on the noodles themselves – they’re too soft. So soft, that they’re almost mushy in texture. I believe that this is the way the chefs intended so I have no quarrel with that – it’s just not how I prefer my noodles. If you prefer them on the side of less chewing effort, this is your noodle.
Sweet & sour lamb ribs, my favourite dish on the menu. Succulent lamb that retains firmness of texture, a sweet, juicy crunch, and a powerfully enticing aroma that’s a perfect balance of syrupy sugariness and bite from vinegar. At this point, the cilantro is pretty much a token gesture to occasionally cut through the richness of the ribs – which will happen if you have the whole plate to yourself.
I think that’s worth it…
Desserts at Ms.G’s have a bit of a reputation for being down and dirty, but that’s not to say you can get something a bit lighter to start things off. Tropical passion is exactly that – a refreshing quenelle of coconut sorbet and a chocolate “tropical forest floor” that transports you to a spoonful of paradise. The sorbet is very light, smooth, but intensely coconut-y. The soil is as crunchy as it looks, and the pandan shards, while not numerous in number nor particularly large, punch above their weight class in pandan intensity.
Doesn’t even need to be shared!
Okay, we’re going down the rabbit hole here with The BOSS – even looking at it gets my insulin going. There’s a lot going on here, but if you’re sharing this, you want to focus your spooning efforts on the Thai milk tea ice cream. It’s full of flavour and intensity of milk tea – not just a pretender. It’s also very smooth and creamy on the texture front, so all boxes are ticked. Now, for the best of the rest…
The kaya French toast – buttery, bread pudding-like. Really nice and intense, and again, something you just don’t find much of in Sydney.
The blueberry jam – still with real blueberries in it! The blueberry flavour is acute and that will guarantee you won’t be blue from eating this.
Honeycomb – crunchy when good, sticky when bad. Your luck will vary.
Puffed rice – coco pops, nuff said.
Or, you could just…replace everything else with an extra three scoops of that ice cream? I’d go for that option, wouldn’t you?
And finally, rounding out our a la carte feast is the infamous Stoner’s Delight – but in its third incarnation. There’s doughnuts, there’s ice cream, there’s peanut butter & chocolate, there’s bacon, mars bars, potato chips and nutella.
Despite all this, I honestly believe that this dessert would taste best if one were actually piss drunk or hungover. When sober, it’s actually not all it’s cracked up to be. There’s just too much going on, too much heaviness, too much fat and sugar on the one plate in proportions that are a bit out of whack. For me, the ice cream is still the best part – Ms.G’s does not fault on its ice cream. Everything else? Drunkard fodder.
But man, I really do want to get smashed and come back for this; it would be like the legendary 2am kebab – the best savoury thing you could eat in the wee hours with the best sweet thing. That would be smashing.
- A focus on flavour brings out some seriously ballsy dishes
- Ms.G’s knows how to do a smashing ice cream!
- Entrees can be a mixed bag
- Some mains are a little too intense on certain flavours, leading to imbalance
- Desserts get a little overboard without a commensurate increase in ingenuity
I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.
Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.
F6 | S4 | A2
Ms.G’s Lunar Feast – 2013
The first thing I notice when I walk into the venue is to be taken aback by how extravagantly pastoral the setting is. A wee bit of an oxymoron, but that’s Merivale for you – heaps of effort on creating the look, feel and atmosphere of the cuisine’s cultural heritage.
Ms.G’s has a roaring nightlife – the bar is more than equipped.
I like it, even if it could be a little over the top.
At first, we were seated on top of makeshift stools made from old beer cartons (crates within). All good, except that the space itself is too small – I think I was wider than the table…ahem.
Luckily, a request made by The Lady moved us to an elevated area further into the restaurant, with a larger table and much better views (which allowed me to take most of the interior shots).
At this time, Ms.G’s was running a Merivale promotion called the “Lunar Feast”, which makes sense given that the Lunar New Year was around this time as well. It’s essentially a degustation that runs at $55 per person. Definitely not what you’d expect to pay for your classic street Vietnamese/Asian – this is Merivale, after all. For Merivale standards, it’s quite reasonable – depending on how you look at it.
We start off with something unexpected – a lovely cup of green tea slushie…with a splash of vodka! Well, it was probably more than a splash – the taste was most evident, powerful, almost rivalling the sweetness of the tea. Interesting start to the meal. I guess the drinking spirit has to be taken into account as well, right?
My interpretation of the pickle plate is that it’s for palate cleansing between each course. I particularly liked the pickled celery, while the turnips were a little less appealing. All were powerful in flavour delivery – you could get away with just eating one or two before calling it. As it stands, this was the one plate we did not end up clearing (though I did try) – there was just too much!
The best thing about these spring rolls is the crunch. Texturally fulfilling, it gives that “mmmm” moment when you first take a bite into it. That deep frying process – bingo!
The filling inside is more standard, I couldn’t really say whether this is better than most spring rolls I’ve had, so I conclude with that it’s satisfying. Granted, a “mere” spring roll would have to be something magical to blow anyone’s socks off.
This dish is version 2.0, as it appears that there is indeed a different version of the salad from awhile back when Ms.G’s was still in its infancy.
Though a vegetarian dish, the textural nature of this salad makes it a winner in my books. I love tofu and I love my crunchy greens. Toss the two together and add fried cornflakes to the mix and you’ve got me hooked.
I craved the salad even after I had finished it – not a particularly common feeling for me to experience.
Oh this is absolutely yummy. I’m totally gaga for good aioli, and I love my prawns. The most accurate way to describe the texture would perhaps be to compare it to a fish cake, except that the filling is prawn, and lacking that spiciness.
It’s very nice, and while I would have preferred a little more flavour in the filling itself, the overall execution of this dish impressed me.
Yeah, check out that filling!
Fried chicken, the staple of any true food lover; how can one not love fried chicken? Ms.G’s spin to it is distinctly Asian – the classic salt & pepper flavour combo is supplemented by some very spicy notes and a lightly floured batter that allows more of the skin itself to do the talking.
Slightly dry? Yes, somewhat, but the flavour is there. Boom!
The dish of the day, the money shot. The fish is cooked PERFECTLY. Utterly soft, delicious shallot broth, reminds me of my mum’s fish preparation – a big compliment for Ms.G’s.
If there was anything I’d improve on it – and there ain’t much – it would be to have an option for a soy/vinegar dipping sauce as the broth can get very light and samey when you eat more and more of it.
Two of the simplest ingredients – bok choy and oyster sauce. Can’t be much right? Not if they’re a match made in heaven. Bok choy + oyster sauce is an excellent combination, and a good side to the fish. This is where flavour exists if the fish becomes too light. That salty tang, irresistible.
The feast continues not with Peking duck, but pork belly! There’s a little logistical difficulty in wrapping everything up as the pork belly slices are MASSIVE, so I guess that’s a good thing as well.
This was a nice dish, though I found that there was too little to detract from the heavy amounts of fat on the belly – I ended up slicing the fatty parts off for later pancakes, as leaving them on will impart that gooey & fatty texture in my mouth. This aside, good flavours were delivered.
It’s finally time for the sweet things in life, and we get a very Asiatic dessert that features plenty of tapioca and fruits. I really like this dessert because it incorporates so many elements that work well with each other. It also didn’t feel particularly heavy, which is great considering the feast we just had!
Well, I have to say that I’m pretty intrigued by the offerings at Ms.G’s. Though I didn’t get my chance to try the famed banh mi sliders or their rib racks, I know I’ll be back when my schedule permits…whenever that is.
It’s worth a visit, just don’t come in with the attitude of “but this isn’t how they do it back in…”
Awesome: reinvention of some classics; sharp flavours
Not so Awesome: some dishes were off-balance