Friday, June 30, 2017

Utz Quality Foods

Update Review, June 2017

Several years ago, I discovered Utz at Phat Philly, as I wrote about in my original review of the chips.   I tried a few varieties, thought they were good, and, moved on with life.  I love snack foods, and the chips were good, but, I didn't go seeking out more products.

And then I tried the pub mix.  I love snacks in general, but my absolute weakness is mixed snacks, where I can rummage through a mix, picking out the items I want most at that moment (hello, Chex mix, in all its varieties!).  The pub mix delivered on this as well.

So I took a step back to finally learn about Utz.  They are based in Pennsylvania, which I knew.  But I didn't know they are the largest independent privately held snack maker in the US.  Nor did I know that they started as a husband and wife, in the 1920s, with her making chips by hand in their house, and him delivering them to stores.  I think they've come a long way since then, like buying Zapp's, who's unique flavored chips I've tried before.

Chips (regular, kettle, or even lard based) and pretzels are their primary products, but they also make puffs, popcorn, tortillal chips, pork rinds, snack mixes, even crackers and dips.  This time around, I tried a snack mix, and pretzels.

Barrels

"When you’re ready to party and entertain, there’s nothing better than Utz Snacks – and we’re totally down with that! That’s why we make giant barrelfuls of all your faves, so you don’t run out!"
Utz makes a number of different snacks packaged in barrels, including all the crowd pleasers: cheese balls, caramel corn, pork rinds, and, savory snack mixes.   The mixes are dubbed poker mix, pub mix, and party mix.  I have no idea how they decided which mix is more "poker" appropriate vs "pub", as all are a mix of assorted shapes and flavors of pretzels, corn snacks, cheesy snacks, and chips.  The "Party Mix" is more chip focused, with 4 different types of chips in the mix, but the other two are near equals in variety, just with totally different choices.  Party Mix also comes in smaller sized bags, for when barrels aren't quite what you need.
Pub Mix.
"When you’re ready to party and entertain, there’s nothing better than utz pub mix. Contains honey roasted sesame chips, nacho bagel chips, oriental rice crackers, pretzel Stix, seasoned pretzel twistix, and Worcestershire rye chips."

I had the pub mix, although I was not in a pub.

I really liked this the.  I liked each element for different reasons, and although they combined together nicely, I preferred to just eat one type at a time.  The sizes of each item made for easy eating, only a bite or two each, and I liked the variety of shapes, as it encouraged my picking through the mix in a way I enjoyed.

I was amused how my choice of items changed based on mood.  Some days, I *really* wanted the cheesy nacho bagel chips, others I adored the sweet sesame chips, and others, I just wanted simple rice crackers.  The only item I never wanted?  The pretzels.
Sticks: Pretzel Stix, Cheddar Cheese Twistix, Honey Mustard Twistix.
The only element I didn't care for was the simple "pretzel stix", since I just don't care for pretzels.  They were, well, pretzel sticks.

The "seasoned pretzel twistix" were two varieties, honey mustard and cheddar cheese, both about the same length as the pretzel sticks, but twisty-style, and not really pretzel-y, as in, they didn't have a white interior and brown exterior, and they were softer.  I liked both flavors, although I didn't realize the honey mustard was supposed to be honey mustard until I read this description.  It seemed more like ... herby?  The cheddar cheese ones were coated in orange powder, that of course got all over my fingers, and had a good (fake) cheese quality to it.  Still, these were my last two picks, besides the pretzels, and not an item I ever found myself digging for.
Chips: Honey Roasted Sesame, Worcestershire Rye, Nacho Cheese Bagel.
There were three types of "chips" - honey roasted sesame chips, round flat nacho flavored bagel chips, and round flat darker Worcestershire rye chips.

Most of the chips were broken into smaller bits, but even full size pieces were still bite size.  The sesame ones were the only sweet element in the mix, and I appreciated them for when I felt like something sweet rather than savory, and I liked the texture from the seeds.  I also sometimes kinda loved them mixed with the cheesy elements, in a Chicago popcorn kinda way.  Overall, the honey roasted sesame chips were probably my first pick.

The Worcestershire rye chips reminded me of the flavors of Chex mix, and made me quite nostalgic for my mom's homemade Chex mix.  They were particularly good used as crackers with some soft triple cream cheese.

The bagel chips were cheesy just like the twists, but better coated, and had a tiny bit of additional zesty (I guess nacho?) spicing to them.  These were often my favorites, when I was looking for something besides the sweet sesame chips.
Oriental Rice Crackers.
The final element is oriental rice crackers, in an assortment of shapes, sizes, and colors.  They were fairly standard rice crackers, slight soy sauce flavor, good enough, but not particularly interesting.
Typical Handful.
Most of the chips and twistix were broken pieces.  The rice crackers and pretzels seemed less prone to the breakage.  The distribution of items was great, nothing dominated (I hate it when mixes are majority pretzels!).

This shows a typical handful, in terms of assortment, and piece sizes.
Country Store Pretzel Stix.
I also tried a barrel of just pretzel sticks.  I didn't seek these out, obviously, since I didn't like them in the mix.

These tasted exactly like slightly bigger versions of the stix found in the Pub Mix.  I'm not sure what made these "Country Store", or what was different, besides the size.  Meh to these, but I'm not one for hard style pretzels anyway.

Original Review, February 2015

The other day I reviewed Phat Philly, a cheesesteak shop in the Mission.

Along with their signatures cheesesteaks and fries, they also carry a few Philly classic treats, like Tastycakes and Utz Chips.  I hadn't ever heard of Utz before, but apparently they are a big thing in Philly, and they make a variety of chips, pretzels, and snack mixes.  Since I always love trying new varieties of chips, I couldn't resist grabbing a bag to take with me, to enjoy later.
"The Crab Chip"
I had to pick the most interesting sounding flavor: crab.  What on earth is a crab flavored chip?

It turns out, the answer is: a chip seasoned with Old Bay.  So no, they did not taste like crab.  Instead, they tasted like Old Bay.  Or basically, like a barbecue chip.  They looked like a barbecue chip too, in color.  They had the same slightly sweet, slightly tangy thing going on that a barbecue chip does.  If you gave them to me without a label, I'd say they were just a slightly different barbecue.  The seasoning was very heavy in the salt, perhaps too much.  But besides that, I was intrigued enough to easily finish the bag.

The chips themselves were decent, thin sliced, crispy.  Not kettle style exactly, but not certainly not baked.  Better than most brands at this price point.

I ate several of them plain to taste the flavors, but then decided to try something out.  In my head, I thought, "well, people eat chips with dip" and "I love my barbecue chips dipped in onion dip, or even yogurt, and these are basically like barbecue chips".  So, yes, I wanted to dip them in something.  I'd just finished a crab louie salad, which is what made me inspired to dig the crab chips out of my pantry in the first place, as I wanted more crab.  If crab goes with louie dressing in a salad, and chips go with dip, then, doesn't it follow that crab chips would be great dunked in louie dressing?  Don't judge.  They were awesome this way.  Creamy dressing, tangy chips ... perfect.  The bag stood no chance once I discovered this combo.

I wouldn't go out of my way to find Utz chips, but if I were ever somewhere that had them again, and I wanted a crunchy, salty snack, I'd get them again.
Salt 'n Vinegar.
Well, I found Utz again :)

This time, I was craving salty, so salt 'n vinegar it was.

Again, basic crispy, thin style chip.  They somewhat reminded me of classic Lays.  Tangy vinegar was the prominent flavor, with some salt.

Nothing wrong with these, but not particularly exciting.
Sour Cream and Onion.
These looked exactly like the salt 'n vinegar.  That is, they had no visible specs of something green indicating onions, nor white powder indicating sour cream.

And ... they tasted pretty plain.  Not even very salty.

I do like the thin style, but these were majorly lacking in the flavor department. 
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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ultimate Cookie

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and purchase baked goods at local coffee shops (that aren't made in house), chances are high that somewhere along the way you have encountered treats from Ultimate Cookie.

Ultimate Cookie is a wholesale bakery located in San Francisco (yes, actually, in the city, not far from where I live actually).  They make, well, cookies obviously, but also biscotti, brownies, bars (including tons of healthy style protein and vegan bars, alongside classics like lemon squares, pecan chewy bars), cakes, cupcakes, and rice crispy treats.  They supply many cafes, upscale markets, caterers, and the like.  They have been in business since 1978, so, clearly, they are doing something right.

Ultimate Cookie put their name on the map with a signature item: "Oat Cakes".  It was these oat cakes that actually caused me to pay attention to their brand.

Famous Oat Cakes
"They only look like hockey pucks!"
Yup, that is their tag line.

Oat cakes are ... interesting.  They really do look like hard, dense hockey pucks.  They look healthy.  They taste healthy.  And they are pretty healthy, fat-free, high fiber, high protein (although they still have 400-500 calories each, and nearly 30 grams of sugar, so, not a light item).

I'm not entirely sure when you are supposed to want an oat cake.  For breakfast, rather than a scone or muffin?  For breakfast, rather than a bowl of oats?  For a snack (albeit a very calorie dense one), instead of a granola bar?  On a hike?  Dessert, instead of a oatmeal cookie?  They kinda work for any of these situations I guess.

Ultimate Cookie makes oat cakes in 3 varieties: apricot, cranberry orange, and cinnamon apple. People love these things.  While most of their products are only available wholesale, individual consumers can actually mail order these.
Apple Cinnamon Oat Cake.
"Dried apples, applesauce and spices... Delicious!"

The apple cinnamon is the flavor that most Yelpers rave about. Made with dried apples, spices, and applesauce.  At room temperature, it was kinda just dry and crumbly, but with decent spicing, and chunks of apple.  But it seemed like just a super dry granola bar.

People online recommended heating it up, so I tried that.  It was even more dry that way.  I slathered in in jam, but it didn't help.  I did not enjoy it.

I think that perhaps warm with butter it would have worked, but I kinda think I just got a stale one, and the spicing wasn't really the type I enjoy.  Would not get again.

I froze half of it originally, and when I pulled it out of the freezer, I warmed it up, wrapped in foil so it wouldn't lose moisture.  And, of course, added the butter I thought it needed.  It wasn't any better.  Just strangely dense and gummy, and the spicing tasted like soap.
Apricot Oat Cake.
"The ULTIMATE Oat Cake... Our hottest seller.  Tangy dried apricots and raisins in a healthy oat cake."

The next one I tried came with dried apricots and raisins.

It was a lot more moist than the apple cinnamon, perhaps because it was fresher?  Moist is a relative term of course, as this is still a pretty dry, dense "puck", not a scone.  It seemed like the base should have been the same as the other variety, but this one wasn't nearly as crumbly and chalky.  It also had a lovely sweet flavor to it.  I enjoyed it just as it was, plain and at room temperature.

I got strangely addicted to it.  It was still very dense and hearty tasting, and almost too healthy/boring tasting, but then it had this sweetness on the finish that was really delightful.  It almost seemed like maple?  The chunks of apricot gave it a nice chew as well.

It was like eating a bowl of oatmeal, where you mixed in some dried fruit, and drizzled with maple syrup or perhaps brown sugar, except ... in a puck.  I really don't know how else to describe it.  It was nothing like a granola bar, nothing like an oatmeal cookie, and nothing like a scone, and those are all the things I'd expect it to resemble.  Imagine taking a bowl of oatmeal, and dehydrating and compressing it?  Doesn't that sound appealing?

They say it is their best seller, which was interesting, as people didn't seem to talk about it much, but I enjoyed it.

I froze half of this as well, and warmed it up, wrapped in foil so it wouldn't lose moisture.  It wasn't nearly as good this way.  Unlike the apple cinnamon, it really did not benefit from added butter.

Crumb Cakes

"Our famous Crumb Cakes are so good they have quickly risen to be just about our top selling dessert. They are light but full of natural flavor. The Cinnamon Crumb is a classic… and the rest of the flavors are all wonderfully delicious."

Crumb cakes are available in 5 flavors: cinnamon, wild blueberry, raspberry ripple, caramelized apple, and New York.

Besides the oat cakes, these are the second most common Ultimate Cookie item I see around town, likely due to their full week shelf life.
New York.
"Our delicious cake with a thick topping of streusel and dusted with powdered sugar. A New York Classic!."

The cake here was fairly boring, kinda plain sweet pound cake.  That part I could do without.

But the topping was decent.   Huge chunks of sweet streusel.  Tons of powdered sugar.  It broke off in big chunks.

I liked the topping, but I wouldn't want the cake itself again.
Wild Blueberry.
"We toss wild blueberries in cinnamon and sugar and gently mix them into OUR FAMOUS Crumb Cake. Top this off with our brown sugar topping and you have a delicious new breakfast offering."

I also got the wild blueberry cake, made with tiny little wild blueberries, and the same crumb topping they use on the cinnamon crumb cake, rather than the decadent New York style.  The berries were mixed in and scattered on top, and there was a generous brown sugar crumb layer as well.

The cake was moist and flavorful, and the berries gave little pops of flavor.  Not tons, but, little bits.  The topping was crispy and sweet, not as interesting as the big chunks in the New York style, but, still good.

Overall, this was good too.
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Waffling Leftovers: Savory Bread Pudding

Yes, I waffle almost all my leftovers these days.  I can't help it.  It truly enjoy it, even when the results are disastrous.

If this is your first time reading about such things, I suggest you start with my master post, and then return here, as I'm skipping the basis behind this madness here.
Savory Bread Pudding Transformation.
Today's adventure is with savory bread pudding.

I was shocked when I went to write this one up, expecting to add it on to a post about waffling regular, sweet bread pudding.  But ... I've never written about that?  I'm sure I've actually waffled it before, although I love bread pudding so much, but it reheats well normally, so maybe I actually failed to ever do an experiment (don't worry, I'll correct that!)

I knew savory bread pudding would waffle well though, just like stuffing (one of the first things I waffled!), and, it did.

Savory Bread Pudding: Will it Waffle?  #ofcourse
The Original: Apple, Caramelized Onion, and Brie Bread Pudding.
The original was savory bread pudding, made with a base of hearty whole wheat raisin pecan bread, with chunks of apple, caramelized onions, and brie.

The bread choice was ... interesting.  In some ways, it was great, as I liked the addition of the crunchy bits of pecan to the bread pudding.  The raisins, although not something I'd pick, added a sweet dimension and additional character to the base.  But it was very dense bread, and I think it soaked up the milk/cream/egg custard more than expected, resulting in a bread pudding that was very dense, and not very custardy.  The top was also fairly dried out; I like a crispy top, but this was lacking moisture.

I found myself thinking it wasn't much different from stuffing, and, I really wanted gravy or some kind of sauce to liven it up.  Still, I liked the flavors, particularly the brie and nuts, and the seasonings.

So I saved leftovers.
Leftover Bread Pudding, Day Three.
It actually was better the second day, the flavors developed more, and it gained moisture inside the fridge.  I tried a few bites cold, and, honestly, kinda liked it.

I could easily have finished it cold, it was good enough that way.  My plan was to actually warm it up in the toaster oven and add the gravy I wanted before.  But ... you know how it goes.  I just have the need to waffle.
Cooking ...
So into the waffle iron it went.  350° (my standard temp these days).  No effort required, I just put in a giant block, and mushed it down.  No crusting, no delicate prep, nothing.

After about 5 minutes, it looked fine, coming together nicely.

I let it go a bit longer as it wasn't getting crispy.  It extracted easily when I was ready, all in one chunk.
Waffled Apple, Caramelized Onion, and Brie Bread Pudding.
Granted, I let it go a bit too long, or maybe this was the top crust that was already burnt?

Still, it worked well.  It got crusty on the outside, moist on the inside.  And those bits of brie?  They turned into liquid pockets of awesomeness.

I certainly liked this more than the original, and probably would have liked it more if I had taken it out a bit sooner.  I think I did like the cold version the best though.
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ms. G's, Sydney

I've now been to Sydney enough times to have formed a decent short list of go-to restaurants for different circumstances.

Ms. G's has become a mainstay of that list. My first visit was in February 2015, with just one other person, and I quickly realized that it is ideal to bring a small group of 4-6 (which of course, I did, the following year). I also successfully brought a *very* large group there, and that did work, but 4-6 is still my idea group size for Ms. G's.

Update Review, Dec 2016

Anyway, since I've reviewed Ms. G's so many times before, I'll skip the general details this time around and comment only on the food.  The general decor, style of cuisine, etc are all unchanged, although many menu items have evolved slightly. 
(Part of) Our Feast!
This visit was a group of 5, which was perfect.  We ordered a slew of fascinating cocktails, a bunch of individual starters, 4 small plates, one larger dish, and of course, multiple desserts.

The food was all good, decently prepared, flavorful, and full of interesting ingredient combinations.  Service was less attentive than in the past, but, the restaurant was packed, and it was always easy enough to flag someone down when we needed.

Drinks

The cocktail menu at Ms. G's is full of fun and whimsy.  A large number of drinks are available "packaged", many with pearls, yup, alcoholic bubble teas.  I've enjoyed many of these, and several of the fruity cocktails on previous visits.

I was excited for my group to get to experience these drinks, and, as expected, folks were pretty happy with their choices, and, just as I was, with picking their favorite color straw for bubble teas.  The non-packaged drinks were impressive in that each one seemed to have a unique style of glass, our table had a wide variety, and no glass was repeated.
 Tiger Tonic. $17.
"Chivas Regal whisky, Ardbeg Whisky, Honey & Lemon Tea, Ginger Liqueur, lemon (fresh & smokey)."

On this visit, I wanted to be a bit more responsible (those fun drinks tend to go down a bit too easily!  Drinking cocktails with a straw isn't actually recommended ...), so I went for the Tiger Tonic, a whisky cocktail that seemed more likely to be a sipping cocktail.

The good news?  I didn't want to gulp this down?  The bad news?  I didn't want to sip it, either.

It was served in a heavy duty glass, and I appreciated the appropriate drinking vessel.  But the flavors were just all over the place, I somehow didn't taste whisky, or lemon, or ginger.  It wasn't "fresh or smokey" as described either.  It was sorta sweet.  Honestly, it seemed somewhat like I had been given the wrong drink.
 Hello Spritty. $16.
"Plymouth gin, Pink grapefruit, Thai basil, Benedictine, Proseco (bubbly & fresh)."

After deciding I just couldn't stick with my Tiger Tonic, I moved on to the Hello Spritty, opting for my third favorite liquor of choice, gin (right behind scotch and tequila, if you are keeping track).

I can't say I understood why they felt the need to clip on a Hello Kitty ribbon, but, they did.  And it was cute, served in a precious little glass.

This was far better, although still not amazing.  I didn't taste the basil, but the slight bubbles made it a fun, refreshing drink.
 Karmic Root. $17.
"Tumeric infused Beefeater, homemade Ginger syrup, fresh mint, lime, soda (light & fresh)."

One of my dining companions went for the karmic root, loaded up with mint leaves, with a strong orange hue from tumeric.  Served in a fairly generic tall glass, but with a special straw.
 Golden Geisha. $17.
"Olmeca Plata, Fresh pineapple, Lemongrass, lemon, wasabi (fruity & fresh)."

After the Karmic Root, she moved on to the beautiful Golden Geisha, with a frothy top and edible flower.   She enjoyed it, but said she didn't quite taste the promised wasabi.

Food

To review, the menu at Ms G's starts with individually priced little starters ("To Start"), followed by family style smaller dishes (broken into "Raw" and "Salads and Smaller Plates"), then "Larger" dishes, also served family style, and finally, dessert.

To Start

The starters are the items that have always been highlights of the meal for me

I was happy to see that two of the signature starters, the bahn mi and the cheeseburger spring rolls, were still on the menu, although the prawn toast was replaced by falafel.  I strongly encouraged my group to order these items, and we wound up with a variety, all picking 2-3 items.  Our individual orders:
  • Cheeseburger spring roll, veggie bahn mi (me).
  • Cheeseburger spring roll, chicken bahn mi
  • Cheeseburger spring roll,  chicken bahn mi, veggie bahn mi
  • Chicken bahn mi, veggie bahn mi
  • 2 falafel (and later, cheeseburger spring roll)
Cheeseburger spring roll. $6 ea.
Ah, yes.  The cheeseburger spring rolls.  I've had these on every visit to Ms. G's except my first, and they were the highlight of my past two visits.  There was no way I was going to pass these up this time around, and strongly encouraged my group to each order one.

Only 2 others opted to try one, although a 4th member ended up ordering one once he saw how much the others like theirs (the 5th doesn't eat beef, so I guess he had an excuse).

Anyway, the spring rolls were delivered piping hot as always.

But this time ... they weren't magic for me.  The outside was still crispy, and the filling really did taste like a Big Mac, but they didn't seem to have as much cheese and special sauce, so not quite as gooey, and amazing.  Maybe my expectations were just too high?

I still liked mine, but it was my third pick overall, and I would have been satisfied with just a bite of one of these, rather than a full size spring roll.  That said, I was in the minority, as two others ranked it the best dish of the night, and one kept mentioning that maybe we should order more, even though we had a ton of food still coming.
Mini Bánh Mì - Chicken Katsu. $6.50 Each.
Of course, we also ordered a bunch of the other signature starter, the banh mi.

On my previous visits, the choices were chicken katsu or pork belly.  This time around, the chicken remained, but the pork belly was replaced by a vegetarian version.  Hmm.

I did not try the chicken katsu version, but 3 other diners did, and one declared it his favorite dish of the night, and kept talking about it long after.  He also considered ordering another, but wisely waited.
Mini Bánh Mì- Mozzarella Katsu. $6.50 Each.
As I said, the pork belly was replaced with a vegetarian option.  But this was no boring veggie choice, as "vegetarian" meant mozzarella katsu, aka, deep fried breaded mozzarella.  Sure, not pork belly, but, promising.

The bun was the only element I didn't care for, a harder style than previous versions.

But I could kinda care less about the bun, as it was what was inside that mattered.  And what was inside was great.  Tons and tons of aioli, which came dripping down as you bit in.  Fresh, pickled slaw with tons of shredded carrot and pickled cucumbers to balance out that richness.  The flavors were great, as were the textural contrasts.

And then, of course, fried, crispy mozzarella.  The mozzarella was a good choice for a veggie option that ate similar to the chicken katsu, but I still preferred the pork belly.

Overall, this was great - crispy, fresh, creamy - all in one, and I really enjoyed it.  My favorite dish of the meal, even though I ended up just eating the fried mozzarella patty, slaw, and aioli sans the hard bun.

Raw

We also picked 5 smaller plates, one from the raw menu.
Special: Ocean Trout Tostada.
"Ocean trout tostada, green papaya, guacamole, red nahm jim."

The ocean trout tostada was removed from the Ms. G's menu since my last visit, but was available as a special that night.  We had ordered it on one past visit.

I had to skip it since it had avocado, but I did try a bite of some of the papaya salad on top, fresh, crispy, light.

A creative dish for sure, with the crispy base, raw seafood, and fresh papaya salad on top, and the group seemed to polish it off easily, even without my help.  It was tied for best dish for one diner in my group.

Salads and Smaller Plates

The other 4 small plates came from this section, which included both my favorite dish of the night.

 Burrata, “strange flavour style” sesame sauce, chilli oil, spinach & peanuts. $22.


The burrata was the dish I was most excited about.  I knew the cheeseburger spring rolls and the bahn mi would be tasty, but the burrata was a new one for me.  It was on the menu last time, but we opted not to get it in favor of other items, since burrata is something we had a lot of at the time.

But this time, my group whole heartedly supported ordering the burrata, and I was thrilled.  (Yes, cheese was a theme here).

This was good, but in unexpected ways.

For one, the burrata was not actually the highlight.  I think the cheese was fine, but the other elements of the dish totally overwhelmed it.  It wasn't a bad thing necessarily, but, it seemed like a shame for both - the other bits were delicious and could likely stand up better with something else to carry them (I'm not sure what, but maybe even a vegetable?) and it is kinda tragic to not even notice the burrata in a dish.

The "strange flavor style" sesame sauce and chili oil was just downright delicious.  Extremely flavorful, although very rich.  The crumbled peanuts on top added another strong flavor, the sesame and peanuts amped each other up nicely.  The raw wilted spinach underneath was welcome, given the richness of everything else.

This really was a crazy combination, as one of my fellow diners said, "Not the flavors I have ever had with burrata", but, we all enjoyed it.

My second favorite dish, although, really, I just want that prep with something other than burrata.  Yeah, I said it.
"Chiang Mai Gyoza" (5p). $16.
"Spicy pork filling, black vinegar soy dressing."

I didn't try a gyoza because I was already getting full at this point, and we still had 3 savory dishes to go, plus, of course, dessert.  If we had ordered less food I certainly would have tried it, but pork gyoza didn't seem more exciting than the other options, and I really wanted to save some room for dessert.

The others didn't really comment on this dish, so I don't think it was anything extraordinary.
Salad. $15.
"Salad of baby kale, apple, wakame, celery, pickled jalapeno dressing."

I also mostly skipped the salad, because, um, salad.  I did steal a few pieces of wakame, and enjoyed it.
‘Jaffle’ nduja, caramelized onions, kimchi and taleggio. $18.
And finally, the last dish to arrive was our jaffle, after our large plate, but I'm including it first since I'm breaking down by menu category.

We ordered a jaffle on our previous visit, but at the time it was chicken, so I wasn't very interested in it.  This time though, it was filled with nduja and caramelized onions, which sounded far more promising (although, it also had kimchi).

The jaffle was well executed, perfectly crispy bread.  The caramelized onions were soft and flavorful, very tasty, as was the nduja.

But ... kimchi.  Don't like kimchi.

Larger

Our group struggled with picking a larger item, as everyone seemed to want different things.  Our server talked us into picking her favorite, saying that our top contender (the fried rice) really wasn't great, and this was her favorite.  It was not our favorite.
Larger: Housemade fettuccine, octopus cooked with kimchi, spicy marinara sauce. $28.
It was the only item to go unfinished by our group.

Why?  Kimchi.  Just way, way too strong on the kimchi.  You had to really like kimchi to want anything to do with this dish.

It also had dill and dried seaweed on top, which was nice, but a bit of a strange combination.  The octopus was fine, but, I grew sick of extracting chunks from within all the kimchi.

One diner commented that it "smells like mustard", which I didn't personally observe, but, to each their own.

It was the universal least favorite for four of us of our table, although, our kimchi loving member ranked it tied for first, with the trout.

Dessert

And finally, dessert time.  We were stuffed, but still doubled down.

The menu had 4 items, one of which we knew we had to get (the signature Stoner's Delight, which I had on my first two visits), but we wanted a second item as well, and that one was a bit harder to decide on.  I was sad that the kaya french toast dessert was entirely gone from the menu, as I surely would have advocated for that, given that I had it on every other visit, and adored it.

One of the other three had watermelon, so we had to rule that out due to my allergy.  Which left us with two options, one of which sounded more interesting to me as it had pandan meringue, but, the others liked the sound of the other, so, we got it.
Dessert: “Omar’s Mess”. $16.
"Green tea meringue, whipped yuzu curd, brown butter, jackfruit sorbet."

Since I avoid caffeine in the evening, I didn't try this green tea based dessert.
Dessert; Stoner's Delight Part 3. $18.
"Doughnut ice cream, peanut dulce de leche, peanut & pretzel brittle, crispy bacon, mars bar brownie, raspberry curd, potato chips and deep fried nutella."

The Stoner's Delight has not evolved past part 3, so this was the same dessert I had before, multiple times.

Small scoops of sweet donut ice cream.  Several chunks each of deep fried nutella and mars bar brownie.  I avoided the chocolate elements, but the nutella did come oozing out as others cut into the fried balls, in a rather glorious way.

The peanut dulce de leche was absolutely delicious.  I never really found the peanut & pretzel brittle, nor the crispy bacon, I guess they were the crumble over the top?

The raspberry curd was another sweet element, although quite fruity.

And then, chips sticking out of it of course.

While I avoided two of the main components, this dish still had plenty to give for me.  A crispy, salty chip, topped with sweet donut ice cream, and plenty of peanut dulce de leche was a fabulous bite.  My notes read: "chip + ice cream + peanut dulce = yum".  That about sums it up.

The others also liked it, but I think felt similar to how I did the first time I encountered it.  One said, "This is very confusing, but good".  Another said it was a "cornocopia of tastes".

Update Review, February 2016

When I was in Sydney in January and May last year, I went to Ms. G's both times.  Our first visit was just Ojan and I, and we had a great meal, but recognized that we'd really prefer a group.  So we more than made up for that in May, and went with a group of ... 10 or so folks.  This time, we went with just 4, which I've decided is the group size.

The menu was mostly the same as a year ago, just some slight evolution of a few dishes.  We stuck with a couple of the classics, and tried a few new items as well.  The service was ok, not as good as previous visits, but it was also the first day on the job for our server, who did a great job given his total lack of knowledge of ... anything, and he was quite friendly.

Overall, a fine experience, and I'd still be happy to return again another time for a great cocktail, a cheeseburger spring roll, and an epic dessert!

The Space

Bathroom Sinks!
Although I described it in my first review, I didn't have a photo of the sinks.  So, here you go: ridiculous pails for sinks, pipes for faucets, and wooden planks for stall doors.

Drinks

The drink menu is really a highlight at Ms. G's.  It is broken down into "packaged drinks" (like bubble teas),  "unpackaged drinks" (regular cocktails), and mocktails, all of which sound great.
Thai Colada. $17.
"Havana Club 3 Anos Thai infusion, coconut water, lime pineapple."

Picking a cocktail was hard, but, eventually I settled on the Thai colada, served packaged, but, sans any boba component.

This was a really great cocktail.  It was a bit sweet from the fruity pineapple, but it was also a bit spicy from the chilis.  The coconut water was the perfect backdrop.  Refreshing, sweet, spicy, just really quite nice.  It was a tad too sweet at first, but as the ice melted, it mellowed out.

I'd gladly get this again.
Raj Mirage. $8.
"Pandan, calpis, lime, fresh mint, soda."

Ojan went for a mocktail, the beautiful green raj mirage.  It reminded me a bit of the "What's in your pan dan?" cocktail that I enjoyed on my second visit.

This was excellent, one of the best mocktails I've ever had.  Such a lovely subtle flavor from the pandan, a bit sweet, very refreshing.  We both quite enjoyed this.

The Food

The menu format at Ms. G's remained the same as our previous visits, broken into "To Start", "Raw", "Salads and Smaller Plates", "Larger", and "Desserts", all items made to share.  We skipped the raw dishes this time, but hit all other menu categories.

To Start

The only section of the menu that isn't really share plates is the "To Start" section, sold as individual bites, so everyone can pick and choose which of these they'd like.  As on our previous visits, these items arrived shockingly fast.
Prawn toast, yuzu aioli.  $6.
I was ... shocked when the prawn toast arrived.  On our first visit, I lamented how it was far too large for Ojan and I to finish between the two of us.  We both liked it, but, it was too rich at that size.  This time ... uh, much smaller.

So, maybe they heeded my advice?  The prawn toast is now about two bites big.  And we had 4 people planning to share it.  Oops.

Fortunately, the To Start section of the menu always comes ridiculously quickly, and we just ordered another.  Unfortunately ... I really didn't like it this time.

The toast underneath was too crunchy.  The prawn seemed a bit fishy, but, I'll be honest, I just wasn't  into prawns on the entire trip, so maybe I just wasn't going to like prawns.  It was coated in sesame seeds, which made it nicely crunchy, which I liked.  But the real killer was how incredibly oily it was.  I know it was freshly fried, but ... I just didn't want that much oil still dripping off.

I did love the yuzu aioli on top.  I wasn't sad that this was so small though, as I really didn't like it, and $6 seemed high for such a tiny bite.
Cheeseburger spring roll ($6). Mini bánh mì (chicken katsu). $6.50 each.
The bahn mi are a class Ms. G's dish, and on our first visit, Ojan and I had the pork belly version.  I would have gotten that again, except I had pork belly nearly every day for the entire week prior, and I just was incredibly sick of pork belly. (Side note: Sydney, why you so obsessed with pork belly?)  The other option was chicken katsu, and since I don't like chicken, I also skipped that, but I must admit, they actually did look pretty good.  Super crispy chicken, dripping in aioli ... tempting!

I did however opt for a cheeseburger spring roll.  It was pretty much exactly as I remembered from our second visit: absolutely delicious.  Still piping hot from the fryer, super crispy spring roll wrapper, ground beef, melty cheese, and special sauce inside  It is a ridiculous creation, and one that actually just works amazingly well.  You get all the flavor of a fancy big mac, just in a far easier to eat form.  I really do love the taste of a good burger, but I rarely want a huge burger, and all that bread.  Here, you get the gooey cheese, the beef, and the special sauce, and you can focus on those elements in all their glory.  Plus a crispy wrapper?  Genius.

I really liked this, and it was the dish of the night for me.  It also made me think, I like to waffle things, but, perhaps a future project could be, turning things into spring rolls?  I also think this one in particular would work great as a fried dumpling.  So many creative possibilities.

Salads & Smaller Plates

We skipped the Raw selection of the menu (oysters, tuna tartare, steak tartate, and ceviche), and moved right on to the Salads and Smaller Plates section.

Part of me wanted the "Vegan's Delight" salad, just to have some veggies, but, the others weren't really interested.  I was interested in the burrata with "strange flavor sauce", because I love burrata, but, I can get burrata anywhere, and wanted to opt for more unique items.  The final salad was poached prawn and chicken, which we skipped.  So, no salads for us (side note: why weren't these just listed in a "Salads" section of the menu?)

So, moving on to the smaller plates, we skipped the sweet and sticky pig tails again, although I really do intend to get those sometime.  We also skipped the "Persian fried rice" and the chargrilled brocollini, because, meh.  We went for the other options though.
Salt & vinegar eggplant tempura. $15.
Continuing with even more fried food, we have the eggplant tempura.

The previous fried dishes were clearly all delivered to us hot and fresh, but this was even more ridiculously piping hot.  After every bite, I'd try to wait a few minutes for it to cool more so I could enjoy it better, but it stayed so hot!  No, I'm not complaining about them delivering food so fresh, just noting, wow it was hot.

Anyway, this was a really interesting dish.  We all took our time considering it.  Did we like it?  We all thought so, but, it was just different.  The batter was crispy, and yes, salt and vinegar.  All the awesome flavor from a salt and vinegar chip, in a batter.  Very successful, although a bit too oily for my taste.  Inside was eggplant, and the part I didn't necessarily love, as it was kinda mushy, and some bites were filled with seeds.

But the flavor and freshness were spot on, and the aftertaste was my favorite part.  The salt and vinegar flavor lingered pleasantly.

It was served with ponzu sauce, which I used as it was provided, but didn't love.  Two other diners decided to dip it in sriracha instead, and liked it better that way.  Ojan opted to just have it sans sauce, and, I had my final bite that way.  It was clearly better on its own, somehow even the mild ponzu took away from it.

A very interesting dish, not sure I'd get it again, but I'm glad I tried it, and my third favorite dish.  I'd love to see them try salt and vinegar frying more items ...
“Curry Puff Jaffle”. $16.
"Toasted sandwich of Singaporean chicken curry, buffalo mozzarella."

The previous day, Ojan and I had a conversation with some Australians about how we had never had jaffles.  Our fellow diners at Ms. G's had only lived in Australia about 6 months themselves, and also had never had jaffles, so, when we saw this on the menu, we had to order it.

The filling was chicken though, so I was less excited about it.

Inside was a well spiced chicken curry (with potato) and lots of melty mozzarella cheese.  Curry and mozzarella didn't quite make sense to me, but I did love how melty it was.

The exterior was crispy, and I must admit, Australians seem to be on to something with this form factor.  They took our grilled cheese and really improved it.  I'm certainly interested in trying a jaffle with another filling.

Larger

We also opted for one "Larger" plate.  This section of the menu has the most options, but, we only got one, as we were just more interested in the smaller plates.  So, we skipped the fried chicken that Ojan had enjoyed before and the BBQ calamari that I had liked.  We skipped sweet & sour lamb ribs, udon noodles, bbq prawns, pan fried mulloway, skirt steak, and bo ssam.  So many options, but, really, the smaller things just sounded more tempting, so, we filled up on them.
Fragrant red curry of snow crab, rice noodles and curry leaves. $29.
This was a total wildcard for us, not something I had any idea what to expect, as I hadn't researched it in advance.  But I like crab, and curry sounded good.

We were puzzled when it arrived, a big bowl of soupy curry.  We all just looked at each other, unsure how to proceed.  We were given no serving utensils, and the tables were stocked only with forks, knives, and chopsticks.  We had no idea how to serve it, let alone eat it once we got it onto our plates.

Every dish at Ms. G's is meant to be shared, and we also only had share plates, not bowls, so we really weren't sure how this was supposed to work.  We asked for spoons, and were given two to serve it with, but none for us to use individually.  So now we could get the soupy curry onto our plates, where it ran everywhere, and then ... what?  I gave up on being polite, tilted the plate, and just drank the delicious curry sauce from the plate.  My table mates were more civilized however, until one of them tried using a boba straw to suck it up, which turned out to be ... impossible.  The long, thick straw required way too much suction, and you just couldn't do it.  It doesn't seem like an impossible task, but I assure you, it is.  We all tried, and all sat there looking ridiculous.  There may or may not be video of this.

Anyway, the curry.  The wide rice noodles were nicely cooked although unremarkable, and I wish they were able to soak up the curry sauce more.  The crab was shredded snow crab, nice crab, not fishy.  There were lots of fresh herbs.

But the sauce, man that was good sauce, which made the whole impossible-to-suck-it-up thing that much more disappointing.  It was so flavorful, just a bit spicy, and truly delicious.  I'd love to see it served some other way though.

Dessert

And then, of course, dessert.  You may remember the ridiculous dessert we had last time, and, I was of course excited to try them out again.  Most were just slight variations on what we had before.  We skipped the "Stoner's Delight Part 3", as we had it twice before, and the "Tropical Passion", because Ojan doesn't really like passionfruit, and the others just sounded better.
“Namira’s Dream”. $14.
"Lychee tapioca, strawberries, mascarpone mousse, strawberry granita and yoghurt Calpis sorbet."

Our first selection was a new one on the menu, at least not one that I had seen before, "Namira's Dream".  Who is Namira?  I have no idea.

I'll admit, on the surface, this does not sound like a Julie dessert.  Fruity is not normally what I go for, nor is sorbet.  But, I do love tapioca and mascarpone, so, I was interested.

So, what did we have here?  In the very bottom was tapioca, soft little balls, mixed with square cubes of sweet lychee.  The strawberry granita wasn't really for me, as I kinda expected, icy, and way too sweet.  The yogurt Calpis sorbet was also a bit icy, but tart.  The mascarpone mousse was good though, fluffy, and not too sweet, although I didn't taste the mascarpone very strongly.

So, I liked the tapioca, the lychee, and the mascarpone mousse, but, overall, not really a great dessert.
The BOSS. $14.
"Thai milk tea ice cream, salted caramel, honeycomb, puffed rice, kaya french toast, blueberry jam."

On our first visit, we had a version of the BOSS, that was slightly different with buttered popcorn ice cream instead of thai milk tea, and popcorn brittle instead of puffed rice.  We adored the kaya french toast then, so, we had to get this version.

However, we asked to have the Thai milk tea ice cream switched for the doughnut ice cream from the Stoner's Delight dish, not because we love doughnut ice cream, but, because we didn't want the caffeine from the Thai tea.

The kaya french toast was again the star of the dish, sweet, sticky, but way too small!  We all loved that component, hidden at the base of the dish.

On top of that was the blueberry jam, which I felt was too sweet, just like last time, and I thought that there was too much.  The salted caramel was also super sweet.  The honeycomb was fine, sweet, chewy, but, also, there just seemed to be way too much of it.  We had a lot of it left over after finishing everything else, which I slowly nibbled on as we sat there, but, the balance really was off on these sweet components.

I liked the crunch from the puffed rice, and the doughnut ice cream was fine.

So, overall, this wasn't the magic it was before, and it had just too many out of balance sweet components.  But that all said, I adore that kaya french toast.  What I really wanted was the kaya french toast, just with some mascarpone mousse from the previous dessert.  Leave out everything else.  I wonder if they'd do that?

Update Review, May 2015

In January, I discovered Ms. G's with Ojan, but lamented that we really needed to go with a group.  So, a few months later, when I was in Sydney again, we returned, this time with a group ... of 10.  Ms. G's was a good fit for the group, and we had a great time.  The cocktails continue to impress, and the food is good (although heavy) and the desserts oh so epic.  Sorry for the missing photos in this section, managing to get photos with such a big group was a bit impossible.

The Space

Communal Table in Bar Area.
Since we had 10 people, and no reservation, we weren't even able to break into smaller groups to sit in the restaurant with table service.  Luckily, the upper bar area (turns out, there are two bars here!), is reserved for walk-ins, and one table there seats 10.  And it was vacant.  Perfect!

The bar area does not have table service, so we had to order at the bar.  Given our group size, I decided to just make an executive decision to order for the group, as I imagined the chaos that would result if all 10 people tried to just order dishes, particularly given that everything is designed to be served family style.  I think this worked well.

I did ask to have the bartender come over to take cocktail orders, assuming it would actually be easier for him, even if this isn't standard.  He agreed with no problem.

Drinks 

We obviously started with drinks.  As I mentioned in my previous review, Ms. G's has quite the cocktail program.  On our last visit, Ojan and I both enjoyed our drinks, and this visit was no exception.  Throughout the night, our large group ordered just about every drink, all mostly successful.  If nothing else, they looked interesting!
What’s in your pan Dan? $15.
"Beefeater gin, coconut water, pandan, lemon, lime."

For my first drink, I decided to get a "non-packaged" drink.  Yes, the bubble tea concept is fun, but, I did that last time, and this drink sounded way too interesting to pass up.  I don't have much exposure to pandan, but on our previous visit, we were fascinated by it.  The only place I'd seen it show up before was in desserts, not cocktails, so I hoped this would provide another change to try to understand it better.

The drink was a brilliant green.  Such a stunner.  And, a pandan leaf was included in the drink itself.  Yes!  Now I could actually see what it was after all.

The drink was great.  I particularly loved the coconut flavor and subtle pandan.  I'd definitely get this again.

I really enjoyed this drink, and, at $15, it was actually slightly less than the Sydney standard of $17-20.
Mocktail.
Ojan opted for a pandan based mocktail, since he too was fascinated by pandan.  It was also a brilliant green, and his came garnished with a bright purple flower.  He enjoyed it.
Pearl Diver. $16.
"Strawberry infused Lillet Blanc, Wyborowa vodka, Prosecco & strawberry pearls."

For my second cocktail, I decided to have a packaged drink, and, in particular, one with pearls.

This was a very sweet cocktail. I liked the fizziness that the Prosecco added.  The pearls however were the weakest component.  They weren't really like the popping boba you find at froyo or bubble tea shops, and had a strange consistency.  The strawberry flavor was good, but, they were just a bit off.

Still, it was quite fun to drink a cocktail, with pearls, with a straw.

The $16 price was again a bit lower than Sydney standards, even more notable since this had the addition of pearls.
Mocktail.
And for his second drink, Ojan also went for a packaged one.  I lost my notes on it, but, he liked this one too.  It is really nice that they have as many fun, interesting mocktails as they do cocktails.

To Start

As on our first visit, the selections we picked from the "To Start" section of the menu came shockingly fast, seriously, within moments.  These items are all sold individually, so I just got a pile of each.
Cheeseburger spring rolls. $5 each.
Yes, you read that caption correctly.  These are, indeed, cheeseburger spring rolls.

On our last visit, you may recall that I mentioned the table next to us ordering these, and loving them.  We had no choice but get them this time.  And, as executive orderer for the group, I decided that everyone would surely want one, so we got a big plate full.  They vanished, nearly as quickly as they arrived.

The spring rolls were just as awesome, or alternately, horrifying, as you can imagine.  There is no complicated way to describe them.  They tasted exactly like a cheeseburger, but, well, inside a spring roll wrapper.

The spring roll wrapper was perfectly crispy, not too oily, and they were clearly freshly fried and delivered to us straight out of the fryer.  I really appreciate how Ms. G's nails this, always bringing the food ridiculously hot and fresh.

Inside was ... cheeseburger.  Ground beef, cheese, and something that sure tasted a lot like McDonald's special sauce.  It was heavy on the mayo mixture and the cheese, but, in a good way.  There was no pretending to be eating anything remotely light here, but, but as we ordered essentially deep fried cheeseburgers, this is to be expected.

I almost wanted some kind of dipping sauce, since that is how I normally eat spring rolls.  But I'm not sure what.  Just dipping into ketchup (er, "tomato sauce"), didn't seem necessary.  Actually, I think it might have been more fun to have the special sauce as a dipping sauce, and the filling a bit more beefy?

Anyway, these were good, the crispy exterior and creamy interior totally worked, and, if you are in the mood for a cheeseburger, by all means, order one.

$5 price tag was fine, and I appreciated that you could order these individually.  In the future, I'd probably split one.  I easily finished mine, but, half seems like it would have been just as satisfying ...
Mini bánh mì- crispy pork belly or chicken katsu $6.50 each.
I also ordered a bunch of the bánh mì for the table, a mix of chicken or pork belly.  Last time, I found the bun unremarkable, and the pork belly not really my style, but I knew these would be crowd pleasers, as they are one of Ms. G's biggest hits.  I didn't order one for myself, but after everyone started raving, I stole a bite.

Interesting ... I went for the chicken.  You may recall that I don't like chicken, but, I knew I didn't like the pork belly last time, so, this actually made sense.

The chicken was really crispy, perfectly fried.  As before, bánh mì was loaded with creamy, delicious aioli.  The slaw component was a nice compliment to the fried.  I actually really enjoyed my bite, and would consider eating another.  But really, I'm sure it was just the aioli that I loved.  Others were all quite satisfied with these, and Ojan said the chicken bánh mì was his favorite dish of the night.

Raw

The next section of the menu is the lighter, raw options.  Since I knew how heavy the entire rest of the meal was, I opted to get 3 of the 4 raw dishes, skipping only the oysters, as those didn't seem very unique.
Vietnamese steak tartare, prawn crackers. (GF) $18.
I skipped the steak tartare, since I don't care for steak tartare, but I thought the classic style plus the prawn crackers on the side was a fun touch.
Spiced tuna tartare, green chilli, lemon, sour cream, pappadams. (GF) $20.
I planned to have a bite of the tuna tartare, but it never made its way down to our end of the table.  So, no review from me, sorry! Doh.  The trouble with big groups ...

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Ocean trout tostada, green papaya, guacamole, red nahm jim. (GF) $20.

Since the ocean trout tostada had guacamole, and I'm allergic to avocado, I mostly skipped it, but I still tried a bite of the papaya salad and trout.  The trout was light and fresh.  The tostada was impossible to split and clearly designed to be a single (large) bite each.  It seemed like a nicely composed dish though, with the crispy base, refreshing salad, and creamy guacamole.

Salads and Smaller Plates

‘Buddha’s delight’ a tasty and textural vegetarian salad. (GF) $14.
Yes, I ordered a salad.  Not something I'd normally get, but I actually read good reviews of it.  Plus, I was still attempting to provide some counterbalance to all the heavy food, and figured some vegetables wouldn't hurt.  And, it claimed to be "tasty" and "textural", both things I like.

I honestly have no idea what was in it.  Lots of shredded and shaved vegetables.  I certainly identified fennel and cucumber, and some type of seaweed.  But beyond that?  I have no idea.  It was light and fresh, as expected, lightly dressed.  The "textural" aspect of the description came from assorted seeds sprinkled on top, and some other crispy things.  I have no idea if the non-GF version has more crunchy bits, but we had the gluten-free version since we had a GF diner.

There isn't much more to say here, it was nice to have some vegetables, but it wasn't remarkable in any way. 

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Prawn Toast.

Moving back into heavier dishes, I also ordered the prawn toast for the table, another Ms. G's signature dish that I enjoyed before.  This time, taking just a chunk was exactly what I wanted, and I appreciated the crunch, the deep fry, and the aioli again.

Larger

And now, for the larger dishes.  I had my eye on the "Cold Soba" with octopus and the egg noodles with snow crab, but alas, they were sold out.

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Jow’s sweet & sour lamb ribs. $29.

I don't like lamb (I know, I know.  Believe me, I have tried, I really have).  So I skipped the lamb ribs entirely, although the sauce looked amazing.

I expected these to be a crowd pleaser, and folks dug in very eagerly, but I don't think they were anyone's favorite dish, as no one really seemed eager to finish it off.
Fried baby chicken, honey mustard sauce. $25
Another dish I ordered to be a crowd pleasure, not because it sounded good to me, as I don't like chicken.

Of course, I tried a bite.  The exterior was super crispy, the interior moist.  Really well fried chicken.  And, like most of our dishes, piping hot.  Everyone burned their fingers picking up pieces.

Ojan said that this dish, and the fried chicken bánh mì, were his favorite dishes, which is surprising because he doesn't particularly like chicken either.

I took this photo once everyone had already dug in, so no, this is not what the portion actually looked like.  The full serving was a big pile of fried chicken, both wings and drumsticks.
Charcoal grilled king prawns, miso butter, lemon. $29.
The last big dish was grilled prawns.  I hated it.

The prawn tasted fishy.  But that wasn't the problem.  The problem is whatever else made up the dish was just gross to me.  I'm sorry, I don't have any better description.  It was just nasty.  So nasty.

No one else liked it either, and most were put off by the fact that they had to extract the prawn from the shell.  That wasn't an issue for me, and I liked the serving style of the whole grilled prawn, but wow, the taste of this was just awful.  So awful.

Desserts 

And now, moving on to the desserts.  I do like the savory food at Ms. G's, but, the dessert we had on our previous visit was so amazing that it was basically the reason I wanted to return.  Plus, Ojan and I skipped the most epic sounding dessert on our previous visit because it was just too heavy after our huge meal and it was just the two of us, and this time I went prepared, and intentionally saved room for it.

Spoiler: the desserts did not disappoint.
“Halo Halo”. (GF) $14.
"Pine lime ice, tropical fruits, mango pearls, coconut sorbet."

There was only one gluten-free dessert on the menu, so I ordered it for our GF diner.  He shared a few bites with me.

It was certainly not the style of dessert I ever go for, but I was glad to try it.  Of all the desserts, this is the only one that really seemed appropriate after such a heavy meal.

It was light, fruity, refreshing.  The most interesting component was what seemed to be freeze dried tangerine segments?  I also liked the assorted tropical fruits, really fruity and fresh.

If you want something light, or like tropical fruit, this is a good option.
The BOSS. $14.
"Buttered popcorn ice cream, salted caramel, honeycomb, popcorn brittle, kaya French toast, blueberry jam." 

Next up was the dessert that I fell in love with last time.  I only got a small bite this time, but the kaya french toast was just as magical as before.  Soft, hot, doughy, delicious.  The popcorn brittle was better this time around, it stayed crispier, but really, it was still more like caramel corn, not brittle.
“Stoner’s Delight part 3”. $14.
"Doughnut ice cream, peanut dulce de leche, peanut & pretzel brittle, crispy bacon, mars bar brownie, passionfruit curd, potato chips and deep fried nutella."

I saved the best for last.  This is the dessert we wanted on our previous visit, but decided not to order since we were totally stuffed, and wanted something a bit lighter.  Of course, The BOSS didn't turn out to be a light option at all, but this sounded even more over the top.

I eagerly dove into this one.  Now, I'll admit, this is a dessert that sounds like it is trying too hard.  I mean, really?  Doughnut ice cream? Crispy bacon?  Mars bar brownie?  Potato chips?  Deep fried Nutella?  Come on.  But seemingly overdoing it is a theme at Ms. G's, and they manage to pull it off.

First, I'll give a walkthrough of what was on the plate.

On the bottom was the peanut dulce de leche and the peanut & prezel brittle.  On top of that was the doughnut ice cream and passionfruit curd.  Around the sides were chunks of mars bar brownie, deep fried nutella balls, and raspberries.  Sprinkled on top was bacon bits.  Sticking out were obviously potato chips.

Ok, now, breaking it down.

The peanut dulche de leche and brittle were awesome.  Great peanut flavor, awesome crunch, great sweetness.

The ice cream really did taste like doughnut and was perfectly creamy.  Turns out, doughnut ice cream is tasty.  The passionfruit curd I did not care for.  I don't usually like citrus curd, so that is part of the reason, but it also just didn't seem to fit in with the other components.  Passionfruit and peanuts?  Meh.  But it was another nice creamy component.

The deep fried nutella were the lighter colored balls, coated in powdered sugar.  These were everything you'd want them to be.  Crispy exterior, with hot liquid nutella that burst out when you cut one open.  The mars bar brownie was just little chunks of brownie, but a good chocolate component.  The raspberries were a bit silly alongside everything else.  "Here, have some token fruit!"  They did add a pop of color though.

The bacon I didn't actually taste at all, just tiny little bacon bits scattered on top were too easily lost.  The chips were salty and crispy, and kinda fun, but I would have liked them transformed somehow.  I could imagine the chips and bacon turned into a crumble of sorts to sprinkle over it all perhaps?  Still, the salty, crunchy component was nice.

Just like The BOSS, this was a creation where all the components just worked together so well.  There was creamy and crunchy.  Sweet and salty.  Hot and cold.  I loved perfecting bites with all the different components.  I could take or leave the brownie, chips, and bacon, but everything else was incredible (besides the passionfruit curd, which I didn't like).

We devoured this, and promptly ordered another.  Definitely the dish of the night, although I still can't decide if I liked it, or the BOSS, more.  Both were incredible.

Original Review, February 2015

For dinner one night in Sydney, Ojan and I ventured to Pott's Point, to Ms. G's, for Vietnamese food.  Our previous experiences in Sydney had taught us that it really isn't the place to try to do fine dining, so on this trip, we set out to experience what Sydney is good at: Asian cuisine.  We started with a bunch of thai places, like Chat ThaiHome Thai, and Sailor's Thai Canteen (and Sailor's Thai Restaurant),  but decided to move on to Vietnamese after a few days.  We needed SOME variety, right?

Not that Ms. G's is really traditional Vietnamese.  It is one of the Merivale group's establishments, so, it is certainly fusion and quite hip.  I read that service wasn't good, but actually, we were quite surprised by the quality of service.  While the place is far hipper than we are, no one was remotely snobby towards us, and in fact, the staff were super friendly and genuinely enthusiastic about the food and drinks, happy to give recommendations.

The food is definitely unique, and I can easily see why one might say that they are trying to hard, but ... the dishes were good, clearly well thought out, and well executed.  Yes, the dishes are kinda crazy (cheeseburger spring rolls? doughnut ice cream?), but, the components actually all work.  The flavors are there, the dishes are balanced, and the textures are a highlight.  I'll admit, I was lured in by the insane sounding desserts (more on that later!), but I'd go back for the savory food too, which, is always saying something coming from me.

Ojan and I really enjoyed our meal, and would certainly return, although I definitely recommend coming with a group of at least 4.  The food is all designed to be shared, and even though we thought we were ordering a small amount for two of us, it was way too much.
Booths.
We were seated in the forth floor, out of 5 floors.  Each floor is fairly small though, so it isn't actually a huge restaurant.

The decor throughout was quite quirky and unique.   Along one wall of our floor was blue booths.  They were against a brick wall, with desk lamp style lighting over each booth.   None of the lamps were the same.   When our share plates were brought to us, they didn't match either.  Nor did our chairs, or any of the chairs at neighboring tables.  So hip.

The floor below us had very active bar area and a few tables, and is also the level you enter at.  I didn't get a glimpse of the top floor.
Cutlery and napkins built-in!
The tables where we were seated were made of ... plywood.

Each table came with chopsticks, silverware, napkins, and bubble tea straws in a well or bucket, self-serve.  Yes, bubble tea straws were necessary for this meal.  More on those soon.
Jungle Table!
One of the more desirable seats in the room was right in the windows, surrounded by plants, almost jungle-like.

From our table, we could see into the next floor down, which was entirely devoted to the kitchen.  It was busy, cranking out food incredibly quickly.

One floor below that was the bathrooms, which I mention only because they were somehow even more unique than the rest of the decor, and perhaps even than the food to follow.  The stall doors were plywood, with hooks and latches to secure them shut.  The sink was a metal pail.  The faucet was pipes.  I wish I had my camera with me when I visited, as it was fairly crazy.  Ojan said that all the other unique elements of the restaurant worked, but the bathroom was too far in the "trying too hard" direction.  I still thought it was fun.
The Ginger Ninja. $16.  Good Morning Virgin.  $8.
The menu is extensive, broken into several sections: "To start", "Raw", "Salads and smaller plates", "Larger", and "Dessert", along with multiple pages devoted to drinks, not even counting the separate wine menu.

Ojan was surprised to see so much of the menu devoted to drinks, but they did have beer, sake, and a ridiculous lineup of cocktails.  I understand why the bar area was bumping.  Some were listed as "unpackaged" and others as "packaged", and we quickly learned what that meant.  For Ojan, they even had a mocktails section, so he got to join in the fun.

We each ordered a drink as we settled in to take in the menu.  I went for the "The Ginger Ninja": Olmeca Altos Plata tequila, home made ginger syrup, elderflower liqueur, lime, and ginger beer.  As a "packaged" drink, this meant that it came like bubble tea, sealed top and all.  Bubble tea straws were available at the table with the other utensils, so we were able to select our color of choice, and poke them in.  Yay, fun.  They also did have some drinks that included pearls.

Mine was a very nicely balanced drink.  I felt the tequila, but it was not strong when I drank it.  The ginger was very pronounced, but again, not overkill, just refreshing.  The cubes of cucumber were almost like boba, except that since they were floating,  so I wasn't able to suck them up.

It also turns out that drinking alcoholic cocktails through a large straw is a bit dangerous, particularly when they are well-balanced and refreshing like this.  I finished mine way, way too quickly!

Ojan selected the "Good Morning Virgin": Raspberry, Vietnamese mint, lime, and ginger beer.  He didn't care much for it, and deemed it the weakest part of the meal, basically just sugar water.  But, at least in a fun vessel?

The food is all intended to be served family style and since there were only two of us, this was a bit hard.  Looking at the other tables around us, it was clear that the "Larger" plates would be far too much, so we decided to skip all of them, which included more classic main dishes like noodles or roasted fish, and their signature fried chicken and ribs.  We also skipped the raw section, not because we weren't interested, but because we were trying to narrow down our choices, and it was hard.  There were too many great sounding dishes, plus we were certain we wanted to save room for dessert.
To Start: Mini bánh mì (crispy pork belly). $6.
We started with an item from the "To Start" menu, which are all items served and priced individually.  If I was with a larger group, I really would have ordered all the "To Start" items!  One choice is grilled corn on the cob, smothered in parmesan cheese, that I read rave reviews of, and saw many tables ordering.  There was also a fascinating sounding "Cheeseburger Spring Roll", that the table next to us ordered, and I have to admit, looked fairly amazing.  Yes, they were indeed deep fried spring rolls, with ground beef and cheese oozing out of them.  The girls next to us couldn't stop their almost orgasmic sounding exclamations as they bit into them.  We vowed to order some if we needed more food.  Which, most certainly turned out not to be a problem.  Alas, next time!

Anyway, back to what we did order, a mini bánh mì, which basically every single table in the entire restaurant ordered.  The choices were crispy chicken katsu, or pork belly, and we obviously picked the pork belly.  It arrived very quickly after we ordered; it is clear the kitchen is used to pumping these out quickly.

The outside edges of the pork belly were crazy crispy and quite delicious.  The rest was fairly fatty, melty fat, that perhaps could have been rendered out a bit better, but the flavor was quite good.  It was smothered in spicy aioli, which was creamy and delicious, although even I think there might have been a bit too much, and I adore aioli.  It was super messy to eat, with aioli and oil from the pork belly dripping out all over the place.  But again, that is part of the fun.

The bun wasn't very interesting, fluffy, but not particularly awesome or toasted.

Overall, it was fine, and Ojan said he liked it, but I would skip it in the future, and I'm not sure why everyone was ordering them so religiously.  They weren't THAT good.  $6 price was fine.  Although it was slider-sized, it was quite generous and rather filling.
Smaller Plate: Prawn toast, yuzu aioli, herbs. $15.
Next we moved on to a "Smaller Plate", Prawn Toast.  A variation of this has existed on their menu for a very long time.  From my research I could see it has evolved slightly, but the essence has stayed the same.  The rest of the menu changes up frequently, but this, along with the bahn mi and aforementioned fried chicken and wings are menu staples.  It arrived soon after we finished the bánh mì, very good pacing, and we were never left bored or waiting.

At first I wasn't sure where the toast was, and thought the entire thing was basically just a deep fried shrimp cake.  It turned out, the toast was a very thin layer on the bottom, super crispy and fried, and it added a really awesome crunch when you cut into it (or bit into it).  I'm not one for toast generally, but here it really did enhance the dish.

The prawn was minced, juicy and succulent, and spread in a very thick layer on top.  The entire thing was covered in sesame seeds and deep fried.  Very fried.  Not in a gross, oily way, but this was certainly not a light dish.  They nailed the perfectly crispy outside and the soft inside.  Great play of textures.  It was also served super hot and fresh.

The garnish was a drizzle of aioli, just the right amount, plus a huge pile of herbs.  The herbs looked excessive at first, but were also the perfect amount.  They added a needed lightness and freshness to the dish, which helped it from feeling quite so heavy.

But it was a heavy dish.  Deep fried seafood cake, plus aioli, isn't ever going to be light.  It was also aggressively salted, not in a bad way, but in a way that made me gulp half my cocktail after just two bites.  Whoops.

We both really liked it, but the size was too much for only two people.  Ojan enjoyed his first piece, but several bites into his second he started talking about how it was too much, and he was no longer liking it.  I felt that way halfway through my first piece.  With a group of four it would have been perfect, and it was sad to not enjoy the whole thing, because it was a good dish.

Overall, a very thoughtful dish, a great play of textures, good execution, but I wasn't in love with it.  I could tell this was just my personal preference though.  $15 price was fine for a dish this size.
Smaller Plate: BBQ calamari, Balinese sambal, cassava crackers. $24.
Next, another "Smaller Plate".  This one took a little while longer to arrive, and it was good that they slowed down the pacing a bit.  Because ... we were full.  We both lamented this a bit, as the dish I was most excited about was this one, plus, have I mentioned, we really, really wanted dessert!  We thought that ordering just two small plates and one individual starter would be fine, and actually worried it wasn't nearly enough food (hence our backup plan of cheeseburger spring rolls, corn on the cob, or a few others we selected), but we easily could have skipped any one of these dishes and been fully satisfied.  Whoops.  Again, definitely better to go with a larger group!

The presentation was rather stunning.  It was indeed a whole squid, sliced, and re-assembled.  I really wouldn't call this a "small plate" though, and again, it was one that probably would have been better shared with more diners.  It also was served barely lukewarm, which I don't think was intentional, a bit sad since the previous dish was clearly hot and fresh.

The squid had a slightly bbq smoky flavor to it, and perfect grill marks.  It wasn't rubbery.  The rings were all a good size, and were well cooked, but I preferred the tentacles, as they have just a bit more flavor to them.  My favorite piece was probably the very tip, as it was a bit "meatier".  Anyway, the calamari was fine, but actually the least interesting component of the dish.

I love cassava, so I was thrilled to see cassava used in the dish, although it was in the form of fried chips, so not exactly recognizable.  The flavor was good though, and they were super crispy, and not too oily.  Ojan was way too full at this point and just tried a single bite of one, but I somehow managed to devour all the rest.  The reason?  The sambal.

Under the calamari was a generous amount of sambal.  It was spicy and just crazy flavorful.  It was too spicy for Ojan, so I got pretty much all of it.  There was also a layer of sautéed shallots on top, which were also crazy delicious, although I think they were the one thing slightly out of balance, as there was just too many.

Overall, the squid was well prepared, but it was the cassava chips, dipped or otherwise slathered in sambal and shallots, that stole the show.  As I said, I was full, and looking forward to dessert, but I couldn't stop eating them, which again, is really saying something.  $24 price was fine for a dish this size.
Dessert: “The BOSS” . $14
And finally, what we were waiting for: dessert!  We actually considered not ordering dessert, since we were so full.  I was also truly satisfied, having loved the spicy sambal and chips.  But honestly, a real reason I dragged us there in the first place was for the desserts.  It isn't just me being a dessert lover that was excited for them, the dessert menu was crazy enticing.

Their signature dessert is the "Stoner's Delight", another item that keeps evolving.  The current version was listed as "Part 3", and is was what we planned on ordering.  Just take a minute to take in this description:  doughnut ice cream, peanut dulce de leche, peanut & pretzel brittle, crispy bacon, mars bar brownie, passionfruit curd, potato chips and deep fried nutella.  Doughnut ice cream? Sure.  Peanut dulce de leche?  You mean, take sweet awesome sauce and add salty peanuts?  Um yes.  Peanut and pretzel brittle for salty crunch?  Yes.  Crispy bacon? OMG. A mars bar brownie? Who says no to that?  And, the piece everyone raves about: deep fried nutella?  And candied potato chips.  Seriously, it sounds amazing.  Sweet, salty, creamy, chocolately ... the only thing I didn't want was the passionfruit curd.  But it also just sounded way, way too heavy given how we were feeling.  Ojan had been championing for ordering this, but then declared that he wouldn't have more than a bite of dessert, so took away his vote.

If I wanted caffeine, I would have ordered the “Dirty Passion”, a Japanese inspired creation with yuzu curd, adzuki bean, coffee jelly, strawberries, chocolate crumbs, and green tea ice cream.  It looked amazing, using chocolate crumbs to form a soil under which everything else was hidden.  But alas, no green tea and coffee jelly for me at night.

We briefly considered the “Halo Halo", made from pine lime ice, tropical fruits, mango pearls, and coconut sorbet.  It sounded the most refreshing, and a bit like our favorite Australian treat, a pine-lime Splice, but ... even stuffed me couldn't really order ice and sorbet when there were better options.

Like ... "The BOSS".  This is their newest dessert, an evolution of a dish called "Bruce Springsteen".  Not that that helps clear it up any, I'm not sure what the connection is to Bruce.  Anyway, it was described as buttered popcorn ice cream, salted caramel, honeycomb, popcorn brittle, kaya French toast, and blueberry jam.  Both servers we talked to were super excited for us to try it, mentioning how it was new, and that they loved it.  And they also confirmed that the Stoner's Delight, while awesome, was super heavy, and not a good pick for only two people.

I was glad it took a few minutes for this to arrive, as we needed it.  And even once it was in front of me, I didn't feel excited.  I wasn't sure I'd have more than a few bites either.  I was just too full.

And then I tasted it.  I should have taken an "after" photo.  I can assure you, there was nothing left on the plate.  Not a drop of sauce.  I can also assure you that Ojan, Mr. "I'm only going to have a bite", had far more than a bite.  This was good. Seriously good.

On the bottom of the plate was the salted caramel sauce, served warm.  Bonus points right away for that.  It was sweet, it was comforting, quite tasty.

On top of that was the absolute best component of the dish, and one that I thought would just be a side component: the french toast.  OMG.  It didn't actually look like it was going to be anything special.  It even looked a bit soggy, and not really what I think of as French toast.  It didn't matter.  It was crazy delicious.  The server who brought it to us told us that instead of cooking it in butter, they use coconut oil.  I'm not sure what made it so good, but perhaps that was it.  I thought it was more like a donut than French toast though, but no matter.  I later realized that the description said "kaya french toast", so I looked that up, not knowing what kaya was.  Kaya is a coconut milk, egg, sugar, and pandan spread from Malaysia, often used on toast.  In this case, it was stuffed inside the french toast.  My notes just said "stuffed with something sweet", as we weren't able to identify it.  Anyway, that french toast.  It was doughy, it was sweet, it was warm, it was decadent, it was amazing.  I would have been happy with just that.

But this dish kept on giving.  Next up was blueberry jam, which I actually didn't love for some reason.  It added more sweetness, a bit of fruit, and good flavor, but I could have done without it. Not that it took away from the dish in any way, but it didn't need it.

The "popcorn brittle" seemed more like just caramel corn, which I do love, but this was a bit soggy, and didn't provide quite the crunch I think they were going for.  A real brittle would be more successful.  The sugar honeycomb was just a few tiny bites, totally lost in the dish.

And finally, butter popcorn ice cream.  Slightly sweet, slightly savory, creamy, although neither Ojan nor I thought we would have identified it as butter popcorn if asked.  It was good, and the french toast needed a creamy component, so it worked well.

Anyway, criticisms aside, this was a very, very good dish.  It was probably too sweet for some, but I loved the play of textures and flavors, and it really was quite unique.  Even though we were incredibly full, and the previous dishes were quite heavy, we couldn't help but devour this.

I'd get it again, although I'd love to try some of the others.  I'd also love for Ms. G's to offer brunch, with the french toast.  $14 might be a bit high for dessert at a not fancy restaurant, but it seemed totally warranted for this creative dish.
Ms. G's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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