If you happen to see the numbers 621 on your ingredients list, you know your food is gonna taste good because it has MSG! Ms G’s name is a play on the notorious flavour enhancer used in many Asian restaurants, reflecting its modern take on Asian food and presumably how delicious the food tastes as well.
The restaurant decor is quirky, with jars hanging from the ceiling and mismatched cutlery and plates on each table. The menu is designed to share with snacks, smaller share plates and larger, more substantial dishes. We start with some mini bánh mì with crispy pork belly and chicken katsu, both with pickled vegetables and sandwiched between soft buns. Both of these were delicious, with the chicken katsu having more of a crunch and the pork belly being soft and tender.
I always get a little thrill when I find the doorway to a hidden bar. It’s that rewarding feeling of solving the puzzle of where the bar entrance is, and of knowing something that’s maybe a little bit secret.
That’s how I felt when we walked into the Hotel Coronation, a dingy looking pub on Park Street that I’ve walked past hundreds of times. We knew there was a small bar around here somewhere but it certainly didn’t look like there was one when we entered the pub. We wandered upstairs to what I think was the actual hotel guest rooms (yep, definitely no small bar there), back down the stairs again, and up another flight of stairs where we began to see the fluorescent glow of pink neon lights of The Smoking Panda.
There’s an old skool Chinese takeaway restaurant feel in the decor, with booth seating and Chinese restaurant-style chairs and tables, but we wander past these and the lanterns straight over to the bar, where we fix ourselves up with a cocktail or two.
Interestingly, the drinks list deviates from the Chinese theme, with an American slant on the cocktails and a big focus on bourbon – there’s more than 50 types of bourbon available from the bar! Our first cocktail of the night, the bourbon-based Blackberry & Sage Smash is fruity but not too sweet, with the tart blackberry and lemon flavours layered over the bourbon.
The Georgia Peach is also a bourbon-based cocktail with fresh peach and mint over crushed ice, making for a refreshing drink.
We spy someone order the Blue Lagoon, a lurid blue drink that by all accounts was actually quite tasty. That blue stuff? That’s blue curaçao, gin, vodka, lychee and dragonfruit which is topped with a lemonade foam and popping candy. We got a little taste of the lemonade foam which tasted kind of like a Sprite creaming soda.
Those that know me will know that I love food on a stick. Even more when it’s been deep fried. And the deep fried quail eggs from The Rice Den are no exception. The eggs are soft and have a slightly runny yolk, and are encased by a crisp tempura batter and drizzled with a sticky teriyaki sauce.
Sesame prawn toast soldiers (3 pcs) – $6
The Rice Den is the newest addition to Chatswood’s burgeoning dining scene. It’s a small restaurant with Asian comic strip images adorning the walls, and a combination of two-person tables, large wooden tables for shared seating and bar style seats. The food is a mish mash of Asian cuisines rolled into the one restaurant and given a modern twist. The sesame prawn toast soldiers are a good example of this, with the Chinese prawn toast, Japanese wasabi mayo dipping sauce and the overall presentation of the dish being reminiscent of the Western boiled egg and soldiers.
A belated farewell to our favourite chef/food blogger Lex, who has headed off to Canada for a working holiday! We farewelled him in style with some drinks and delicious food at China Doll on Woolloomooloo Wharf, where he had just finished working. As a result we were well and truly spoilt, with an insider to tell us what to order and head chef Frank Shek sending out some of China Doll’s best dishes, some of which were on the house.
Sashimi of hiramasa kingfish and ocean trout with blackened chilli dressing – $26
We place our palates into the hands of the very capable chefs and start with the cold sashimi dish first. The red colour of the dish worries me at first but I find that the spice factor is very mild and is careful not to overpower the delicate taste of the kingfish and ocean trout. Hiding underneath the slices of fish are batons of crunchy apple which provide a nice crunchy texture against the soft fish.
Crispy school prawns with lime mayonnaise
The crispy school prawns are a blackboard special tonight and turn out to be one of my favourite dishes. The prawns are absolutely addictive, particularly when smothered in the lime mayonnaise and an extra squeeze of fresh lime.
Prawn and mushroom steamed dumpling with tobiko and red vinegar – $20