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.
When our group of girlfriends started treating the birthday girl to dinner in lieu of birthday presents, I realised what a good opportunity this was to finally check off some restaurants which have been on my go-to list for a long time…
Monopole was FeFiFoFum’s choice for her birthday dinner, and I was secretly pleased because it was a place that I had been wanting to visit for a while. The outside of the restaurant was so dark and inconspicuous that we nearly walked right past it, but when we finally opened the door, we saw that the dark exterior was matched by the “mood lighting” on the inside.
Luckily we had phones to light up the menu, which was split into cured meats, shared dishes, cheese and desserts. Instead of choosing a la carte dishes though, we went with the Monopole menu, which gave us 7 courses for $65pp.
We started with three cured meats arranged on a wooden platter with some pickled vegetables. We had the cured duck breast (foreground), cured pork neck (background left) and cured Rangers Valley tri tip. The duck breast was probably the chewiest out of the three, with a slightly more gamey flavour. While others preferred the tri tip bresaola, I relished the silky fatty texture of the cured pork neck.
We continued on with a cold course of cured trevally, which was served with discs of pickled cucumber, blobs of smoked yoghurt and sea greens. It was a light and cooling dish, with the slight acidity of the pickles tempered by the smokey yoghurt.
Well hello again, it’s been a while! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip to Hokkaido in Japan where we got stuck in the airport both there and back, and when we finally landed on home soil, I was off again on another interstate work trip!
So it’s kind of nice to be home, and to have time to sit down and blog and just chill. But one thing I started to miss as soon as we got back to Australia was the incredible food in Japan – hell, even the fast food there is way better (Mos Burger anyone?)
So yes, this post is about Japanese food, coz you all know I can never get sick of the stuff. I’d had Cho Cho San on my radar for a while, so I was pretty happy when Charm chose this restaurant to have her farewell dinner.
The menu has a selection of dishes designed for sharing, which suited us perfectly as we were able to try little bits of everything. We started with the tempura eggplant miso, a deep fried take on the classic nasu dengaku. The tempura batter was wonderfully light, encasing soft pieces of eggplant and drizzled with a sweet miso sauce, sesame seeds and shallots.
The beef tataki was like no other I’d had, with super thin slices of fatty raw beef that melted in the mouth, with nutty-tasting wild rice for texture and a light ginger dressing.
One of the best things about visiting Hokkaido is the amazing seafood, particularly the crab and scallops. Hokkaido scallops are plump and sweet, and especially sweet when eaten raw. The hokkaido scallop dish at Cho Cho San played up the sweetness of the scallops by contrasting it against the umami flavours of the katsuoboshi (dried bonito) and the tangy flavour of yuzu. There was also chopped radish and wakame seawood for colour.
Japan is a country that is a little obsessed with the cute and cuddly. You’ll see kawaii mascots everywhere in Japan promoting TV channels, transport passes and even the cities and prefectures themselves! So when I see the logo of Harajuku Gyoza with its cutesy face, it’s almost like I’m back in Japan.
Inside, the kawaii theme continues with Japanese-patterned melamine plates and light fixtures saying ‘HAI!’. The menu is equally as cutesy, proclaiming “Welcome, Customer-san!”, before comparing your appetite to Godzilla and saying “We want your happy face”. As for the food items, naturally the menu is gyoza-heavy but there are also other Japanese side dishes and izakaya style dishes available.
There are 5 gyoza dishes at $8 each, and we manage to try 3 out of the 5. For the pork, chicken and duck gyoza, you can choose to have these either grilled or poached. We’re after the crispy burnished bottoms of the fried variety, so we choose to have our pork and duck gyoza fried.
Yes you heard right… Buns AND Balls. Get your minds out of the gutter people – we’re talking burger buns and meatballs here! And that’s exactly what the new Buns & Balls in Potts Point offers – a selection of tasty meatballs and juicy burgers.
Of course before we get into the buns and balls, we have a couple of drinks. At Buns & Balls, they have freshly made juice cocktails and we choose to sample the pineapple, ginger beer, vodka and bitters one first. I’m not a huge fan of ginger but thankfully this isn’t too gingery, and it’s also not tooth-achingly sweet because of the acidity from the pineapple juice. The watermelon, lime and vodka cocktail is equally as refreshing and is perfect for the upcoming warm summer nights.
We tried a selection of the meatballs on offer, as well as some of the spicy Louisiana wings. I enjoyed the barramundi croquettes with tartare sauce which reminded me a little bit of fish fingers. The crispy tofu balls were bathed in the deep fryer for a nice crispy outside and firm tofu on the inside. Both the chicken meatballs and wings used the same hotsauce and blue cheese dipping sauce, so they tasted very similar, though I preferred the wings to the chicken meatballs. The beef and pork meatballs with napoletana sauce and grated cheese on top were by far my favourite, reminding me of a classic meatball made by an Italian nonna!