Not certain what happened to JAA's original post on Ms G's but here is my impression:
This place is popular, open less than a week and it is already booked out. Merivale’s latest opening is in the old Wokpool space in Potts Point, with Dan Hong and Jowett Yu cheffing. The space is done out in a sort of “shabby Asian” with rough wood, packing cases, bare concrete, and mismatched vintage (70‘s) crockery as opposed to the more standard black and red lacquer of up-market trendy Asians. The crowd is young and hip, lots of Darlo boys and ESP’s (Eastern Suburbs Princesses) glamming it up; music is loudish, the cocktails are prominent.
The menu conforms to the latest style for small plates to share, it is a sort of pan-Asian mix of dishes and techniques, with lots of interesting sounding options. From the starters menu we order the “Mini bánh mì- crisp pork belly” ($6 each) and “Ms. G’s grilled corn on the cob, parmesan, lime” ($3 each), interestingly these arrive after two other dishes have been consumed. We are quite used to random order food deliveries in but why label them “starters”?
The corn on the cob is interesting with the flavours melding well, it would be nice to have a whole cob, but this would be four portions which at $12 would make it pricey! The mini bánh mì description is totally accurate - they are very small - they taste good though, although not significantly better or worse than a Vietnamese bakery in the burbs.
The first two dishes to arrive are the “Prawn toast, yuzu aioli, herbs” ($14) and the “Buddha’s Delight - A textural vegetarian salad” ($14). The prawn toasts are fine and the mayo adds a nice dimension, the salad is also good with a nice crunch and as promised a pronounced textural dimension. But both are simply “nice” nothing to really rave about. Portion side is still on the small size, to be fair this maybe reflected in the pricing as the dishes are not expensive for a mainstream/trendy place.
Next up the “larger dishes” Braised pork belly “Hue Style, konnyaku noodles, lemongrass, chili broth” ($24) and “Egg noodles with XO sauce, braised duck, soft poached egg” ($16). The noodles promised more than they delivered, it was a sort of non-dish without a remarkable flavour profile. The pork was more successful with an interesting broth and very tender belly.
Total bill was $126 including a $40 bottle of Pinot, all in all $86 for the food isn’t that bad. If I return I would probably order a few more dishes as they are quite small serves. Service was good, but fast: we could have been in and out in 40 minutes if we hadn’t ordered an extra course (the pork belly).
To me it is a restaurant to go out to for a fun night rather than very serious food, it has a good vibe and feels it will become a place to be seen. Dan was at the pass on our visit, although he didn’t seem to be cooking, he obviously had an important customer upstairs as he was personally delivering dishes. Probably on the list for a return visit after Friday night drinks.
On the face of it, my dream restaurant: the very competent waitstaff wear "maekaké" aprons from saké breweries, people drink one-cup saké or alocholic bubble juice and there's a mural on the wall with Biggie lyrics... not to mention a sound system pumping classic (James Brown) to contemporary (Snoop Dogg, 2pac).
This amount of style made me a bit suspicious, but I'm pleased to say that the food and drinks are solid and occasionally spectacular.
This place -- like Spice Temple, Sake, Toko, Longrain and Universal -- are geared towards a cocktail crowd; but like those restaurants, matches a fun environment with serious food. The cocktails really shine, among them: an Aloe vera cocktail (sure to please anyone who's raided a 7-11 for Asian drinks in the middle of the night), a Bloody Mary with konbu (tomato + konbu = umami overload), a Pina colada with tapioca pearls (EasyWay, anyone?) and a Slurpee with yuzu (where do you get yuzu juice in Sydney anyway?).
Food highlights included the banh mi (surprised how good this was... down to the pate), the steak tartare and the prawn toast. The "Stoner's Delight" dessert was completely insane (is it just me, or does burnt passionfruit taste like marijuana? Just me...).
All in all, this is a great restaurant but it won't be for everyone. I like the food, and the kitch-y touches, even if the crowd isn't really for me.
Well my post was deleted because I put a link to my tumblr with all the pics.
I am a bit new to that, so did not know.
When were you there?
I think you're thinking about this place the wrong way.
It's not meant to be fine dining, even though Dan definitely has the talent to do so, in a cool atmosphere.
It's supposed to be a super cool and trendy restaurant packed every night where you can actually enjoy the food. Remember it's Merivale after all, they're not only here for the sake of great food, but also to make money out of it. And they know how to!
I agree and understand it isn't fine dining (hence my comment that is is a great Friday night place) and I can see that is has been created as a "super cool and trendy restaurant". And maybe that is part of the problem for me, it is style over substance, it felt manufactured rather than natural. Maybe it needs to settle into its rhythm after all in the first week the diners are probably not representative of the future regulars and the staff are still settling in.
I also agree Dan has real talent and when it comes through it is really impressive. However, I find at both here and Lotus it rarely gets through the restaurant concept (or in Lotus' case attitude of FOH). Hopefully he will do well out of Merivale to start his own place in the same vein as Duke Bistro i.e, stripped back to let the cooking show through.
I think I am also a bit biased about this space as it was where I first samples Kylie Kwong's food when she cheffed for Neil Perry at the first Wokpool. The place holds memories of some really first class food at reasonable prices, with (in its day) a pretty cool, trendy and packed bar which served some fantastic noodles at low prices. So whenever an Asian style place opens in this spot, for me it has a high bar to get over.
You are right about Merivale knowing how to make money and run successful places. I really admire them and generally enjoy their restaurants. I particularly like the way they invest and develop talent and name their chefs to give recognition. I suppose without the "concepts" they wouldn't be as successful, and thus Sydney's dining scene would lose out.
PS - I like your blog (http://aspoiledcochon.tumblr.com/), we seem to agree about a lot of places in Paris and London, I thought your comment on Inaki’s at Le Chateaubriand was spot on it is very intellectual and many people miss that especially those looking for a cheap "Top 50" meal.
Oh how I would have loved a Neil Perry / Kylie Kwong team :)
I did not know it was that at all, should have been awesome!
I really love Ms G's, I'm actually going back (again) tonight.
Dan and Jow both have a lot of talent that's for sure!
But they're both very young, so lots of time to see them shine even more.
Take care, JAA