Thursday, March 24, 2011

Across the Border: Potts Point: Food: Ms G's

Based on my recent food-related blog posts, readers must think that all I do is swan about town drinking like a mad woman, stuffing my face with food and steadily putting on weight. Well, you'd be about half right. But this latest adventure in food-land has so far been the best and - even though it's only March - I would have to say that it was Lunch of the Year. It may even hold that position for the next nine months, for rarely do I have someone else paying for the food bill, allowing me to eat and swill to my heart's content.
The occasion was Ruby Molteno's birthday and I was very fortunate to be the number four at the lunch table with the birthday girl and her Ma and Pa Molteno.
It was a rainy old Sunday, so we initially planned to lunch in the cosy indoor dining room at Forbes and Burton, but upon arrival we discovered that the chef has scrapped the weekend lunch menu in favour of an all day brunch. While a menu featuring eggs and bacon cooked 15 different ways is Ruby's idea of heaven, Ma and Pa and myself weren't all that enthusiastic.
So we set off down Darlinghurst Road, passed the Poos on Sticks cross-ways and headed down Victoria Street, Potts Point to . . .  Ms G's.

The restaurant, whose name is a play on the popular Asian meat tenderiser, monosodium glutamate, opened late last year in a terrace house that was previously home to Neil Perry's XO and the flash Italian joint, Ego Ristorante Enoteca. The building is owned by Sydney playboy and bar baron, Justin Hemmes, whose family-owned Merivale group is behind the Ms G's venture.
The front door leads in to the small dining room and bar (above) and then a stairwell that zig-zags up and down the building's right side, takes diners to the various multi-levels.

The best level, and the one where we were fortunate to be seated, is up on the first floor (above). A large floor to ceiling window looks out to tree-tops and the CBD, while the room is decorated in Donkey Kong-style jungle ropes. If you are lucky enough to score a window seat, you can even see a glimpse of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House:

The second floor is a little more laid back and features sofas, stools, coffee tables and walls covered in old pages torn from newspapers, magazines and books:

The stairs lead down to another dining room with booths and tree-trunk views:

And yet another floor down, you'll find the kitchen and chefs hard at work:

The menu is described as modern Asian and is designed to be enjoyed tapas-style in a group, so that you can taste as many dishes as possible.

There are four different food categories on the menu: Raw (as in oysters and sashimi), Salads and Smaller Plates ($14-$16), Larger ($18-$34) and Desserts, including the cheekily named Stoner's Delight, a grand pile of banana ice cream, chocolate, rice bubbles, peanut brittle and marshmallow ($12).
But the one menu item that began our drift in to food heaven was the cocktails, which range in price from $12-$14. 
Ruby's Pa had Ms G's Famous Yuzu Slushee, a refreshing icy-mix of Limoncello, Russian Standard Vodka, Yuzu Juice and Regan's Orange Bitters. It was so good, he ordered another.

I also ended up having two (or was it three?) Aloe Vera cocktails, a divine, frothy blend of Absolut Vanilla,  Limoncello, Crushed Lemons and Aloe Vera Foam (below left). Ma Molteno had an exotic sounding Purple Rain cocktail of Beefeater Gin, Purple Basil, Pomegranate and Passionfruit (below right).

It was a grand start to the meal, which slowly arrived, dish by dish, over the next hour or so. We began with four Sydney Rock Oysters with Lemongrass Vinaigrette ($4 each) and the Hiramasa Kingfish with Jicama, Guacamole and Finger Lime ($16), which was so much more impressive than we expected and a taste sensation too. Jicama, which is commonly known as yam bean, is a Mexican root vegetable that looks like a cross between a potato and a turnip, and is popular in Asia. It has a crispy texture like apple and was used shredded raw in the kingfish dish (below right) adding a nice fresh bite. 

The next dish to arrive was the Heirloom Tomatoes, Steamed Eggplant and Crispy Fried Tofu with Thai Basil ($22, below left). For such a simple sounding dish it was packed with flavour, which seems to be a theme of the menu at Ms G's. We also ordered Stir Fried Cultivated Mushrooms with Brown Butter and Garlic Stalks ($18) and it was a massive flavour and textural hit too. The mushies were so hastily devoured, I didn't even have time to photograph them. 
I didn't even need to photograph the Stir Fried Rice Noodles with Grain Fed Beef, Chili, Herbs and Peanuts ($18, below right) because the dish has left me with the most vivid flavour and texture memory, that is so good, I will be going back to Ms G's for it again and again. 

The last dish to arrive was the Grilled King Prawns with Sambal Matah, eschallot, lime and chili relish ($30). I'm not mad about prawns but Pa Molteno seemed very happy with the dish and the fieriness of the sambal, served in a baby cos lettuce cup. 

So who is responsible for these amazing flavour hits? It's hard to believe, but it's those two crazy-looking blokes below: Dan Hong and Jowett Yu. 
The pair previously worked together at Sydney's world class, Tetsuya's, and have been at Merivale's other Potts Point restaurant, Lotus (22 Challis Avenue), for the past few years, where Hong (with the bread rolls on his ears) was appointed head chef at just 25. 
Yu was raised in Canada and comes from a Taiwanese background, while Hong has Vietnamese heritage.  

The other great thing about Ms G's, apart from the food, is the carefully, if not overly, designed decor. The Merivale collection of restaurants and bars are all very design conscious, and while it sort of gives it a McHemmes feel, for some reason this attention to detail also gives me confidence in the cleanliness of the place. 
If they care so much about how it looks, the kitchen must be immaculate, especially considering you can walk right by and peer in. 
The details extend to the ceiling (above left) where hessian bags are stretched over frames; as well as the bathrooms (below left), with walls papered in print and buckets used as sinks. 
I had to look twice at this ''coffee-table'' (below right) which is essentially a stack of flattened cardboard boxes tied together. Cute. 

The bill came to $232 for the four of us, which works out at $58 a head. That's not bad at all considering we had cocktails, entrees and mains. Thank you Ma and Pa Molteno for shouting me such a memorable time and thanks Ruby for inviting me along. Happy Birthday, Ruby. I hope we have lots more memorable meals together and I can't wait to return to Ms G's.

Ms G's
155 Victoria Street
Potts Point NSW 2011
02 8313 1000

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