The Curators: Ms G’s Executive Chef Dan Hong on Sydney Food and his favourite off-duty eats
On my last trip out to Sydney I checked out Ms G’s, a hip pan-Asian restaurant in Potts Point. It instantly took a spot in our Sydney restaurant guide and also became the subject of my Vietnamese food obsessions. You see, the food at Ms G’s is my comfort food only I strangely found myself eating it in a cool bar/restaurant atmosphere and although the flavours tasted like home, there was a younger, fresher, edge to it that I couldn’t put my finger on and so I began to obsess over it.
I knew living in NYC I’d have a pretty big geographical hurdle to jump before I could eat there again so I decided to get it out of my system and have a chat to the man himself Dan Hong, Ms G’s Executive Chef, about how the restaurant came about, his inspirations for the food and to get his point of view on where Sydney sits in the global restaurant scene.
Don’t worry; I wasn’t about to chat to him without getting a list of his favourite Sydney food hotspots so after the interview look out for Dan’s personal list of off-duty eats and trust me, his picks are gold!
MB – Tell me how Ms G’s came about
DH – I was the head chef at Lotus when we did a special dinner with David Chang around March 2010. My boss (Justin Hemmes) ate at this dinner and loved the food. He wanted to open a restaurant that was really fun, casual and really reflected my personality and style. Any cooking rules that I learnt during my training went out the door and we created Ms G’s. Our main focus was for every dish to be super delicious.
MB – Where did you find inspiration for the food at Ms G’s?
DH – Everywhere…eating all over the world, whether it be street food or fine dining. My mother’s food is a big influence too, as are my other talented chef friends.
MB – How do you think Sydney’s restaurant scene compares to other major cities in the world?
DH – It’s definitely up there due to our multiculturalism and our amazing produce from our seafood to beef. We have some really talented chefs in Sydney doing great things ranging from fine dining to casual eateries focused on sharing and wine bars. One thing that needs to improve is late night dining. We need more places to eat after midnight.
MB – “Sydney food” has almost become its own cuisine – how would you describe what the essence of Sydney food is to a foreigner?
DH – It’s hard to explain. I guess our cuisine reflects our weather, which is fresh, exciting and fun.
MB – What’s next for Ms G’s?
DH – We are always trying to Improve. My head chef Paul Donnelly is a very talented guy and comes up with great menu ideas. We just want Ms G’s to be a place where you can go any day of the week and have a few drinks, eat great food and have fun.
DAN HONG’S SYDNEY RESTAURANT GUIDE
GOLDEN CENTURY, CHINATWON
The most famous Cantonese restaurant in the city featuring a wall of live seafood and offering consistency like you’d expect from a Chinatown institution.
Best Bit: Amazing live seafood and open till 4am
HAPPY CHEF, SUSSEX FOOD COURT, CHINATOWN
Easily the most popular noodle soup vendor in Sydney Chinatown’s Sussex Food Court. Cheap, delicious and fresh.
Best Bit: The “number 1” a Cambodian style noodle soup
CHAT THAI, WESTFIELD SYDNEY
Slightly different from the other wildly successful Chat Thai locations, the Westfield branch boasts its own dessert bar but still does its old favourites with plenty of flavor and finesse.
Best Bit: Authentic Thai food, especially the desserts.
THANH BINH, NEWTOWN
A Vietnamese restaurant institution in Sydney, the Newtown location is one of 3 Thanh Binh’s that are all famous for authentic Vietnamese fare and a huge selection of dishes (a whopping 250 menu items to choose from!)
Best Bit: Rolling your own sugarcane prawns and the deep fried quails.
RYO’S NOODLES, CROWS NEST
You’ll know you’ve reached Ryo’s when you see a queue of Japanese people outside waiting for their dose of real Tokyo ramen. You’ll be happy to hear the queue moves quickly thanks to the restaurant’s no-frills, eat-and-run style.
Best Bit: The Tonkotsu Ramen.
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