When you step off Victoria Street into the studiously street-art surrounds of Ms.G’s, it takes a moment to adjust. The place is unexpectedly bigger than you’d guess. Then there’s the red-light district ambiance and the intriguing ceiling of suspended jam jars containing anything from matchboxes to crushed leaves.
Wander past the collection of cardboard debris that makes for a coffee table and you’ll see seating areas spread over four levels, all overlooking each other and some with views of the terraces and city beyond. It’s Hong Kong kitsch and Korean diner rolled into one, complete with stainless steel cutlery holders and bottle of hot chilli sauce.
Oversized ropes and nearly naked light-bulbs dangle, a wall of graffiti is down lit for theatrical effect and there’s a mix of booths, intimate wall-mounted tables and communal dining. Just pick a level.
The attic holds the bar (think cocktails spiked with tapioca pearls) and the basement houses the kitchen (where chefs greet you as you pass). It’s layer after layer.
But the real drawcard here is the ‘dude food’ of chefs Dan Hong and Jowett Yu, who made their mark just up the road at Lotus. Like Lotus (and now El Loco), Ms.G’s is a Merivale enterprise (think Ivy and Ash Street Cellars etc). The difference here is that Hong and Yu have been given the latitude to explore the food that really excites them.
Dishes are a skilful blend of Vietnamese/Chinese/Korean with a hint of Americana. Regulars queue for the Mini Banh Mi, Jow’s sweet-sour ribs, fried chicken or ‘Stoner’s Delight’, a deconstructed jam doughnut dessert.
Sure, the neon ‘Six Two One’ sign on the wall is a reference to the number for MSG, but the flavours here hold their own.