Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ms G's, Potts Point

They say good things come to those who wait and we waited and waited for our bounty at Ms G's last night...but the food is worth waiting for.

Ms G's is the latest restaurant offering from the Merivale Group - the force behind a number of Sydney's trendy places to be (like Ivy, Ash Street Cellar and Lotus).

The restaurant offers a modern twist on Asian food and the decor is as fun and funky as the menu. Ms G's spans a five storied terrace building in Potts Point and each floor is filled with quirky decorations like rope hanging from the roof, mental buckets as basins in the loos, mis-matched crockery straight out of the 70s, neon signs and buckets hanging from the roof.  On your way downstairs to visit the loos you can even have a squizz at all of the action happening the small, but open kitchen.

Obviously word has gotten around about Ms G's as they serve about 300 diners every single night of the week and this particular Saturday night is no exception.  We (The Boy, Niecy Poo, Big Brother and myself)  arrive at around 7.00pm and the place is totally full.  There's a massive crowd killing time in the bar waiting for their tables.

The bar is a fun place to tread water whilst we wait for our table - and I'm happy that we're not lined up on the street outside waiting like you have to do at a lot of restaurants in Sydney these days.  The bar staff are constantly under the pump serving a mixture of cocktails, beers and sake, but I think it's safe to say that most of the ladies are here to try one of their fun "Packaged" cocktails. These are like an EasyWay bubble-tea, but with alcohol.  After two of these I feel just a little happy! 

After 90 minutes in the bar Big Brother has "had enough" and decides to leave, but not without a word to the hostesses downstairs about the long wait (eek, don't upset them or we'll never get a table). Seems that we've be overlooked (ok, they forgot about us) and the hostess comes upstairs to apologise, tells us a table will be ready in 15 minutes and best of all FREE DESSERTS FOR ALL! Now isn't that worth waiting for?  It's enough to make Big Brother stay on for dinner.

When we are finally shown to our table I'm sad to say that the lighting was so dark that my photos haven't really turned out all that well so I'm not going to use them here (but you can check out some other blogs that have had more success with their photos at this website).  All that really means is that The Boy and I have to go back during lunch time to take some more photos and try some more dishes.  For research purposes of course.

To begin we ordered a few starters:
  • Mini Bánh Mì (aka Vietnamese Bread Rolls) that come with either crisp pork belly or chicken katsu.  These are $6.00 each.
  • Plate O’ Ms G’s Pickles ($9.00) which is a plate of various pickled vegetables such as tomato, chilli, kim chi and carrot. A lovely and refreshing dish
  • Sydney Rock Oysters ($3.50 each) which comes with a lemongrass vinaigrette and a lime wedge.
Miss Piggy's Favourite Starter:  I fell in love with the Bánh Mì  at the first bite.  I ordered mine with crispy pork belly and it was Ah-mazing.  Ms G's Bánh Mì  leaves for dead any Vietnamese Pork Roll I've had from a bakery, despite the fact that it was small for its $6.00 price tag.  All of the usual filings were there; carrot, shredded daikon and corriander, plus the most delicious spicy mayonnaise that had me wiping the drips up off my plate. 

For mains we ordered:
  • Grilled Ocuptus Salad ($14.00) with coriander and Cassava crackers.
  • Vietnamese Steak Tartare ($18.00) that comes with a googy egg yolk on top and is served with prawn crackers.
  • Fried Baby Chicken served with a Kimchi Mayonnaise (half $15 whole $25).
  • Braised Pork Belly “Hue Style” ($24.00). This dish is served with konnyaku noodles that are tied into a cute little bow and comes in a beautifully clear lemongrass and chilli broth.
  • Stir fried cultivated mushrooms ($18.00) cooked in brown butter and served with garlic stalks.
Miss Piggy's Favourite MainWhilst we all loved the Fried Baby Chicken, my favourite mains would be a toss up between the Mushroom dish  (filled with tasty, meaty mushrooms) and the Steak Tartare.

None of us had ever had Steak Tartare before and the long wait for our table and subsequent and alcohol had made us feel brave to try something new and way out of our comfort zone.  I generally like my meat well done...really really well done, so eating raw mince marinated in spices and wine/spirits is a big culinary step for me. I'm glad I tried it as it was a really beautiful dish...the taste of the herbs, spices and marinade was amazingly zesty and the texture of the meat was very tender. From the first bite I wasn't thinking "I'm eating raw mince" I was thinking "holy yummo"!

For desserts were ordered...everything on the menu!  All the desserts are $12.00 and are big enough to share between two people without feeling like you've been jipped.
  • Stoner’s Delight” which is a surprisingly neatly presented dish of banana ice cream, chocolate/rice bubble/pretzel slice, peanut brittle chunks with a passionfruit flavoured marshmallow.  I thought this dish would be more messy looking, after all since when are stoner's neat and tidy?
  • Pandan Chiffon Cake with diced strawberries, coconut sorbet and tapioca (I think) was the most traditional type of Asian dessert.  I quite liked it, but Big Brother wasn't a huge fan not having had Asian style desserts before.
  • SPLICE” which is a pine-lime granita that comes with a lychee sorbet and whipped cream and is beautifully presented in a big round tumbler.
  • Jam Doughnut” which is terribly sinful cinnamon doughnut ice cream topped with a sweet raspberry jelly. 
Miss Piggy's Favourite Desserts:   My first word of warning is that unless you are one of those people with a separate stomach for dessert, then eating more than your fair share of all four desserts is not a good idea.  I really pigged out on the desserts and got home feeling a little worse for wear due to sugar and ice-cream overload.

That said, we all loved the "SPLICE", it was a lovely and fresh tasting dessert and not as sweet and "naughty" as the others we tried.

As well as the great food we enjoyed at Ms G's, I was totally impressed by the super friendly and efficient service we received (even despite our table request being inadvertently over looked - stuff like that happens now and again, so no point getting upset about it, right)? For a restaurant that must be constantly frantic from the minute they open to the minute they close all the staff we encountered were friendly despite how busy they were.

Ms G's on Urbanspoon

Miss G's is at 155 Victoria Street, Potts Point.  There is a no bookings policy, so get there early otherwise take a seat at the bar, enjoy a drink or three, and wait for a table.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Food delights at the Gulgong Show

On the auspicious occasion of my birthday this year another very special event occurs. The Gulgong Show. 

There's nothing I love more than a good show. All that food on sticks is Miss Piggy's dream come true.  The Boy and go mad at the Royal Easter Show running between the Dagwood Dogs, Cheese on a Stick, Chips on a Stick, Corn on a Stick.  And then we like to wash it all down with some "Homemade" Lemonade which clears our palate for just one more Cheese on a Stick.  Ah, happy days. 

Needless to say I'm pretty excited about the Gulgong Show as it is a fairly small country town event.  This  means less distance to walk to get all of my favourite show food treats.  And less people getting in the way of me and my beloved Dagwood Dogs.

We actually commence our show over-indulgence at the homebrew judging the night before the show opens.  The Cattle Baroness sponsors a medal in the homebrew competition, and both her father and brother have been entering their home brew for it's only right that we attend this important occasion.

The Boy is beside himself when we're told that after the judges taste the beer, all the spectators then get to have a taste as well. I bow out after about 10 small glasses of various tipple, but The Boy is in for the long haul and tastes everything that is offered to him.  Needless to say he's pretty cheerful and rosy cheeked by the end of the night.

I do get my second wind however when the Alcoholic Effervescence have their moment before the judges (that's Ginger Beers and Ciders), and I am more than a little happy when I discover that there is even a liqueurs and spirits category too.  So far the Gulgong Show is running rings around the Royal Easter Show (even though none of us could really walk in a straight line by the end of the night).

Surprisingly we all wake up the next morning with clear heads and are ready to tackle showday head on.  First stop is the Yard Dog Trials were we see Shawn the Sheepdog (yes that is his real name) doing his thing.  I think the Cattle Baroness is watching Shawn closely to see if she teach her lovely canine friend some tricks for the cattle yards.

There's nothing like watching someone else dog doing hard work to work up an appetite so
The Boy and I hit the Dagwood Dog van.  Two of these puppies set us back $10.

For those of you not "in the know" a Dagwood Dog is a battered hot dog Frankfurt on a stick. The whole shebang is then deep-fried and dipped in tomato sauce. It may sound disgusting to the uninitiated, but trust me, it's good. Really really good. They are a treat however best saved for show days otherwise you'll give yourself a heart attack from over indulgence.

The Cattle Baroness and her friend Miss L have a more refined morning tea in mind however and head to the Dining Hall for Devonshire Tea ($4.50).  The scone is enormous and doused with a good spread of jam and swerving of cream on the side. It all looks very decadent and fit for a Cattle Baroness.

The Boy and I head back outside to check out some more offerings at the show.  We venture into the Chook Pavilion, but this proves to be too much for me after being serenaded by The Cattle Baronesses roster who started crowing at 1am in the morning and finished at about 5.30am. As I stared at the crowing rosters I'm imagining them roasted on a plate with potato's...I know it's time to get outside and find more food before someones prize rooster becomes my lunch!

As rooster is off the menu (for now) we decide to partake in a Steak Sandwich ($5.00).  The sandwiches are pretty simple (white bread, minute steak, onions and tomato sauce) but boy, are they tasty.  Mine hits the spot and gives me some energy to go and do a tad more show sightseeing.

We check out some of the main pavilion which showcases all manner of arts, crafts, preserves, wool, fruit and vegetables, baked goods and cake decorating.  The Cattle Baronesses suggests we look around and get some inspiration as we'll all be submitting entries next year. Eeep!  I can't cook, let alone bake or be crafty...perhaps I can try my hand at egg decorating...

...or growing onions...

We head on over to the petting zoo and see some seriously seriously cute kittens and some groovy (non-crowing) chooks.  I dare you not to go "awwww" when you clap eyes on the cute little kitty I'm holding.

It was pretty hard to put the kittens back to go in search of more food, but in the end food trumps kittens...well, sometimes at least.  I'm desperate for something cool as the day has turned into an absolute scorcher.  I head straight for the nearest sno-cone stall and buy myself a cup of sticky, sweet, icy coolness for just $3.00.

The Boy only has donuts on his mind after getting a whiff of them earlier in the day.  He buys two ($1.00 each) and they come piping hot and served...on a stick! 

After a quick browse at a stand selling sweets we settle on some Aniseed Lollies ($2.50 per bag).  They look so festive with their hundreds and thousands decorations that they are impossible to resist.

And, of course a trip to the show wouldn't be complete without a showbag. The Boy buys our all time favourite, the Bertie Beetle showbag...amazing value.  Ten Mr Beetles for just $4.00.  I'd put up a photo but "someone" in our house has munched most of the Bettles and thrown the showbag in the bin. The Boy = guilty for crimes against food blogging.
We contemplate going to watch the wood chopping, but the heat, early morning/all night rooster serenade, and perhaps a little bit of last nights homebrew are all catching up with us and we decide to call it a day....but only after getting two Dagwood Dogs for the road!

The Boy and I had a blast at the Gulgong Show. The homebew competition was fantastic fun and not just for the free drinks.  I loved chatting to the locals - everyone was just so friendly that we felt right at home.  The show itself was fantastic...small, simple, compact and filled with local families enjoying themselves and what their community has to offer. 

I'll be back next year...with my decorated egg!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sakura Japanese Kitchen, Sydney CBD

They say that good things come in small packages, and this definitely applies to the cute little Japanese restaurant, Sakura.

The BFF and I end up at Sakura as our ‘plan B’ dinner.  I’d actually convinced him to come to the Malaysian Kitchen with me that was on in the city last week.  Tales of queues a hundred miles long and waits of over an hour had me worried that my dream of eating at the Malaysian Kitchen would be just that…a dream.  I did a quick walk by on Thursday night and the queue was already well over 200 meters long and the event wasn’t even open yet. Yikes.

Hmmm…I knew there was NO WAY that the BFF (or myself either, if I’m totally honest) was going to line up to eat dinner in a little laneway, on a stinking hot day, with 80 other people, no mater how “cool” I thought it would be.

So plan B is put in to action and the BFF marches me down Pitt Street towards Thainatown...or is it Koreatown?  Regardless, before we hit the stretch of Thai or Korean restaurants that occupy this end of the city we duck into the petite Japanese Kitchen, Sakura and grab a seat.  There are only about 20 or so seats in this tiny hole-in-the-wall joint, so we're pretty chuffed to grab the last available two.

We decide to share a few dishes and start off with an Avocado and Salmon Salad ($9.00). This is a lovely salad, with a combination of salad leaves, cucumber, crab meat, salmon roe and thick slices of Salmon Sashimi. The salad is drizzled with a fruity dressing and the sashimi is thick, meat and amazingly fresh. 

The Agedashi Tofu ($6.00) is a winner, but then again it always is.  I think my addiction is probably more for the dashi-based sauce and bonito flakes that dance atop the dish, rather than the tofu – but mix the three together and viola. Perfection.

We order three Sushi Rolls to share; Tempura Prawn Roll ($6.00 for a small serve), Soft Shell Crab Roll ($7.00 for a small serve) and a Ungai (eel) Roll ($8.00 for a small serve). The Sushi Rolls come with a miso soup on the side.

My favourite is by far the Soft Shell Crab Roll. The crab is super crunchy and I’m having a love affair with that lovely Mayonnaise that seems to adorn so many sushi rolls. I'm also pretty partial to the Ungai Roll - the eel is lovely and soft and falls part easily in my mouth (which is good as the weather just seems too hot to go to the effort of chewing food).

Sakura is a teeny tiny little restaurant on the southern end of Pitt Street.  The building looks a bit art-deco, with lovely little leaded windows and fancy ceiling cornices.  It’s not a good place for those of you who are claustrophobic, but if you don’t mind sitting shoulder to shoulder with other dinners then give it a try.

Sakura on Urbanspoon

Sakura is at 325 Pitt Street, Sydney.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Butcher Shop Cafe, Gulgong

The Boy and I arrived in Gulgong to visit our friend The Cattle Baroness on a lovely sunny afternoon in February.  We headed straight for the Gulgong Butchers in order to stock up on our beloved Vegemite and Cheese Sausages.

We had our esky and ice bricks in the car and were planning to take as many snags back to Sydney as we could manage (and afford).  I was so excited about our impending purchase that I was out of the car before The Boy had even parked properly.  Needless to say that I was beyond devastated when the butcher tells me that they don't have any Cheese and Vegemite snags this weekend.

The Boy could hear me wailing from outside the shop and he enters just as I begin my bargaining phase with the butchers.

"I've driven all the way from Sydney".
"It's my birthday".
"I love them and must have them".
"If you have some in the freezer I don't mind taking frozen sausages".
"If you make then today I'll come back tomorrow to collect them...honest I will".

Surprisingly none of my pleading results in any Cheese and Vegemite Sausages being produced.  O.M.G.  

We leave the butcher's shell shocked, with our feet dragging behind us and a sad face that not even Droopy Dog could compete with. There's only one thing that might ease the pain a little

We head across the road to the Butcher Shop Cafe in seek of solace and it's solace that we find.  The cafe, although not housing any Cheese and Vegemite Sausages, has a blackboard menu that takes up an entire wall.

The cafe is actually not in an old butcher's shop, but takes its name from its sister restaurant located in Mudgee which is.  The cafe is bright, spacious and has a lovely rustic vibe to it - it feels a little bit like an old style milk bar.  There are some eclectic pieces of furniture and an old butchers sign that hangs above the coffee machine that help accentuate that "country feel".

We take a seat at the big wooden communal table and after perusing the menu for all but a second we both decide that we need big meaty burgers to fill the hole that Gulgong Butchers has left in our sausage-less tummies.

I go for the Steak Sandwich with Caramelised Onions ($10.00) and it is nearly as big as the plate with big, thick slices of white bread. The onions are beautifully sweet, and the steak is tender and cooked to perfection.  The salad greens just emphasise the fact that a steak sanger this tasty must be good for me.

The Boy orders the Butcher Burger ($10.00) that comes with cheese and bacon. It is just as huge as my sandwich and looks delicious.  We both fall silent as we munch through our lunch, our thoughts temporarily diverted from our Sausage Sadness.

We also order some drinks. The Boy goes for a Caramel Milkshake ($3.50) and as I drank half of it I can tell you it was pretty amazing.  I love that it came served in the metal glass...just like milkshakes of yesteryear.  I ordered a Ginger Beer ($3.50) which was lovely and refreshing.

After lunch we head back over to the butcher's just to double check that no Cheese and Vegemite Sausages have materialised in our absence. Nope. They do give me their phone number though so I can call ahead next time and order some to avoid disappointment.  Now why didn't I think of that earlier?

The Butcher Shop Cafe is at 113 Mayne St, Gulgong.  They are open daily for breakfast and lunch.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mamak, Chinatown

I'd heard so many good things about Mamak that I was becoming more and go there.  Talk of Mamak's soft, buttery Roti bread were driving me mad with Roti cravings.

I'd also heard many many things about the lengthy queue of hungry roti lovers waiting for their turn to try the magic of Mamak that I was a bit worried about how long I'd have to wait in line to finally get inside.  I'd heard of people waiting upwards of 40 minutes to get a table inside due to their no-bookings policy.

Needless to say that my jaw nearly hit the floor when we cautiously approached Mamak one rainy Saturday afternoon to find a really small line-up. Niecy-Poo and I agreed we'd wait for 15 minutes and then abandon our mission as we were in a bit of a time crunch to head back to Newtown to meet The Boy who was referring Water Polo at Sydney Uni.

My jaw dropped even further when we were inside and seated within five minutes.  Woot! This was my lucky day indeed.  

It's just a pity that both Neicy-Poo and I were a tad full due to a morning of grazing at the Eveleigh Farmers Markets.  Poor planning I know...rookie mistake really, but our trip to Mamak was totally unplanned.  We decide to share a few things off the menu and come back another time for a full-blown Mamak feast with The Boy in tow.

To start with we order a serve of Roti Canai ($5.00).  This Roti is surely a gift from the Roti Gods.  It's beautifully soft and fluffy and just a little bit buttery, but not too oily.  Perfection!  The Roti Canai comes with two curry sauces, one of which is a lovely Dahl, as well as a spicy Sambal Sauce.  Why I agreed to share this is beyond me...another rookie error I guess.

Sticking with our Roti theme we also order a Roti Bawang ($6.00).  This iteration of Roti is served flat and not smashed and smooshed like a Roti Canai.  The Roti Bawang is stuffed with sweet red onions that are "just" cooked so have a slightly crunchy texture.  The sweet flavour of the red onions is the perfect compliment to the slight spicy sauces.

Neicy-Poo spied a piece of tasty looking Ayam Goreng ($3.50 per piece) on another table so we decide to order a piece of the fried chicken to try for ourselves, rather than stare longingly at the piece on the table next to us.  Oh my, this was a delicious piece of chook.  The skin was crisp to perfection and the meat still moist and tender.  Once again I wonder to myself why we've agreed to share such tasty morsels.

Mamak also serves a range of Malaysian teas and coffees and we decide to order two different teas to share...of course.  Niecy-Poo orders a Teh Halia ($3.50) and I order a cold Teh Ais ($3.50).  

I'd not had "pulled tea" before, but was keen to try it after seeing people drinking it in coffee shops in Singapore.  I was intrigued watching the man in the little Singapore shop I'd stopped in to have a cold drink pouring the tea from container to container to make a frothy cup.

Teh Halia (the cup in the foreground) is a hot pulled tea served with a hint of ginger.  It is an absolutely beautiful drink and I could see myself quickly developing a habit for it if given half a chance.  My Teh Ais is an ice-cold mikly tea that obviously has a generous spoonful (or two) of sugar.  It's lovely and refreshing on a very muggy day in Sydney.

Despite the looming threat of a huge wait for our next visit to Mamak I know for a fact that it won't be long before my next visit.  Roti = food love.
Mamak on Urbanspoon

Mamak is at 15 Goulburn Street, Chinatown.  They open for lunch from 11.30am - 2.30pm and for dinner from 5.30 - 9.30pm. They stay open til 2.00am on Friday and Saturdays for "supper".

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