We needed a place to have dinner after a full day at the Good Food and Wine show in the Fitzroy / Collingwood area, as we were heading to drinks in that area later. I referred to my trusty list of places I wanted to go and realised Northern Light Bar & Eatery worked perfectly.
Northern Light is located on Smith Street in Collingwood – in what used to be the old Gigibaba. Venue owners are Adam Liston and Glen Bagnara (ex-Chester White) together with manager Emily Pullen, and they have created a fusion Chinese and Japanese eatery that is all about shared dishes. Clearly the years Liston spent in Shanghai were utilised in the creation of the menu and the idea behind Northern Light.
From the moment you step in you feel like you are transported to another world – almost forest like (hence the name) – thanks to the plethora of dangling combination of light bulbs and lanterns. It’s beautiful. The next thing your eyes are drawn to is the marble white bar that takes up the length of the venue, finished with dark wood. There is seating all along the bar, along with lower tables at the front which has a massive white decorative mirror overlooking it. Exposed brick walls and mood lighting completes the look.
The menu designed by Liston and is split into 6 different sections – Snacks, Plates, Cooked over Binchotan, Meat, fish & Vegetables, Sides and finishes with Desserts. You can pick from the enticing dishes yourself or have the banquet menu – 5 courses for $55 and 7 courses for $75. Snack dishes include Spiced Prawn Cracker, a golden egg, Plate dishes which are slightly larger consists of an edamame dish with kimchi sauce, an interesting eel dish and air dried Blackbmore beef. Cooked over the Binchotan have a selection of skewers that come in the form of mushroom, chicken, beef or pork belly. The meat, fish & vegetable section include soba noodles, suckling pig, a smoked trout okonomiyaki and lamb ribs. There are three different sides to choose from as well three different desserts.
The drink menu includes Sapporo on tap along with other drink options include cider, wine, and a concise selection of cocktails. I ordered a mocktail of mint and pineapple and it was quite tasty.
We have a few dietary requirements and the staff are happy to help us out and let us know which dishes are Gluten-free. With that knowledge we decide to order for ourselves – there are four of us – and get a couple of dishes from each section. What I also liked was that each time a dish came out – the staff explained what the dish was and each component.
We start off with the Golden Egg, Caramel, Fried Shallot, Furikake. This came highly recommended from the staff, and after eating this dish we could see why. The dish was quite a colourful dish thanks to the blue background of the plate together with the fried shallots and furikake (nori, seasame and chilli) all adding to the colourfulness. The golden egg was perfectly soft centered – it had been poached and then flash fried to create a crackling outer shell that had been rolled in caramel. The dish was finished with the onion as well as the furikake and worked extremely well together. It was a combination of spice, salt, sugar, crunch and gooeyness – try it out for yourselves.
The Sichuan Spiced School Prawns, Curry Mayo were up next. There was a bit division here with this dish but only with regards to the Curry Mayo – half of us liked it and half of us didn’t. I was on team I LIKE THE MAYO – it was an interesting combination and I think it worked well with the flavour of the prawns. The Sichuan spiced prawns on the other hand was a clear winner – everyone loved it and we sat around discussing how we could recreate this dish at home. They were perfectly crunchy and flavoured well and you could sit there eating them all day!
The Edamame, Broccolini, Gai Lan, Kimchi Sauce was an interesting dish. I am obsessed with Broccolini at the moment, so when I saw this as one of the components I had to get it. The Edamame came already out of the pod – which was a bit disappointing – the whole fun attributed to popping them yourself was missing, however I get why it was done for this dish. The dish was fresh and tasty thanks to the kimchi sauce.
Next up was the Eel unagi, Squid Sauce, salted Grapes, Mojama. This was a really great dish! A hadn’t ever had eel before and she tried it for the first time here and quite enjoyed it. The dish was presented interestingly, with grape halves dispersed amongst the eel, which lay on top of the squid sauce and topped with mojama (salt-preserved tuna). The eel was smooth and had a smoky flavour which worked well when coupled with the sweetness of the grapes and the saltiness of the mojama. A dish well worth ordering.
The Air dried Blackmore beef, wasabi, yolk, fried potato was another interestingly plated up dish – the main focus was the nest of thin potato slices that you needed to push aside to reveal the vibrant Blackmore beef and the bright yolk. The dish was completed with fresh wasabi, horseradish and sorrel leaves. The boys quite enjoyed the beef dish and said it was interesting to have it combined with the walk runny yolk.
The Wagyu oyster blade skewers with Bulldog Sauce were a hit as well. They are quite small in size and I am sure they all could have eaten another three skewers each – they were that easy to eat – tender and flavoursome, and the bulldog sauce always makes things more interesting.
I used to order vegetarian okonomiyakis all the time and really enjoyed the dish, so was interested to see what Northern Light’s version would taste like. We ordered the Smoked trout, salted shrimp okonomiyaki, katsuobushi (this is the Japanese name for dried, fermented and smoked skip jack tuna). We were all enthralled by this dish when it was placed in front of us as we saw pieces of food moving – this turned out to be the katsuobushi. When placed on hot food, the heat waves causes the thin and light katsuobushi to move about which made the dish seem alive with the “dancing” katsuobushi. The dish resembled a seafood omelette and was quite tasty – however we found it a tad bit too salty. The saltiness took over the other flavours of the dish so I couldn’t really taste the smokiness of the trout.
To accompany the dishes we had ordered we also ordered the Warm soba noodles, wild mushrooms, white sesame and the Vegetarian Fried Rice. The soba noodle dish I loved – anything combined with mushrooms and sesame to me is brilliant. The noodles weren’t overcooked either so all in all a good dish.
After all the dishes we got try I actually was quite full and wasn’t really considering dessert – but I am glad that I decided to change my mind at the last minute. I ordered the Broken Ice Cream Sandwich. This was yet another interestingly presented dish – it came out with jagged edged shards made out of chocolate and reminiscent of a hardened cake – placed in form of a tent shape. Once you open this fort like surrounds you reveal a luscious and creamy vanilla ice cream rectangle chunk, which is topped with dollops of equally creamy chocolate mousse and gooey salted caramel. The combination of these three elements together was spectacular and it was the best end to a great meal. Who knew something so simple when put together could taste so great!
We apparently beat the Saturday night rush as we had a pretty early dinner – around 6pm and left around 7:30pm. So if you want to beat the rush go early! Northern Light Bar & Eatery is a great place to just hang out and enjoy some great Japanese/Chinese inspired dishes whether it be with a group of four people or even a romantic night out. The mood is casual and relaxed, the staff really friendly and those multiple hanging lights are a winner in my book!
Rating : 4 Pandas
Menu – Refer to above pic. Menu can also be found at http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/menu/
Atmosphere / Ambience: Romantic, Mood Lighting, Casual and Relaxed. Great for a first date – but works well for a group of 4 as well!
Standout Dish: Golden Egg, Caramel, Fried Shallot, Furikake AND Broken Ice Cream Sandwich
Service: Fantastic! Very helpful when we needed to find out about which dishes were Gluten Free. Friendly as well!
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/bookings/
Restaurant Details and Location:
102 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9416 0698
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:30pm – Late