Northern Lights Bar & Eatery – Fusion Food with Fanciful Lights

panda 4 rating 
Love the Lights!

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Menu:
Northern Light Menu

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
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above pic. Menu can also be found at http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/menu/
Fullness: 100%
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:
http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/
102 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9416 0698

Opening Hours:
Closed Mondays
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:30pm – Late

Northern Light on Urbanspoon

duNord – Swedish Splendour

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Menyu at duNord

G & I were catching up for dinner and decided to check out duNord which is located in Little Bourke St – right in the middle of the Melbourne CBD. duNord serves up Swedish flavours and Nordic inspired cocktails and is owned by Thomas Kiltorp (ex-Emerald Peacock, Red Hummingbird).

As you walk in you are greeted by the super long Beechwood bar which has solid bar stools that you can perch yourself up at. There are also higher tables near the bar. Following the bar is the kitchen and to the right of that there are lower blonde wooden tables for more seating. At the back of the venue is space called Back Pocket where you get fit between 30 to 70 people for a private function. There is exposed brick combined with the light wooden furniture combined with a neutral colour palette to create a warm, welcoming and inviting feel to the venue. The staff are ever so friendly and helpful.

duNord is known for its Nordic themed bar which includes Scandanavian beers, ciders but the main feature is their cocktails. This would be expected especially with Kiltorp at the helm. There is a daily “market cocktail” as well as a list of 12 different cocktails, which changes according to the produce available as well as the weather. Interestingly there is a mystery brown bagged beer – beer served in a brown bag to try out as well! There is also a snack menu – svenska bitar – which includes some Swedish meatballs or a smorgasbord platter of herring, gouda cheese, rye and pickles.

G & I arrived at duNord after work for dinner and were seated on the lower tables near the kitchen area. We actually didn’t order any of the cocktails and went straight to the food as we were starving. The menu is split into 5 sections beginning with the nibbles and followed by to start, vegetables, mains and finishing with something sweet. There are between 3 to 5 dishes to select under each of these menus. There is a great selection for vegetarians, and the meats range from venison to mutton and include pork loin, duck breast and smoked mackerel.

We decided to order two ‘nibbles’ dish to share, our own mains and a vegetable to share as well.For the two nibbles dishes we ordered the Smoked Eel and Acorn Croquettes in popcorn and the Pine Smoked Quails Nest.

I have never eaten Acorn before so was intrigued to find out what type of flavour it would be. It was a bit hard to differentiate as it was in a croquette style and mixed together with the smoked eel. However the result was delicious – the smokiness of the eel and the nuttiness of the acorn paired well together. It came in a serving of two so was perfect for the two of us. The outer layer was crumbed and crisped perfectly.

Before ordering the Pine Smoked Quail Nest – the waitress explained what the dish consisted of and it sounded really interesting. When the dish comes out it comes under a dome which houses the smokiness, and once it arrives at your table, this is removed and the vapours evaporate. The “nest” actually resembles a real life birds nest – with the “nest” made out of carrots and onions which are created to look like bark. Really cool! The quail egg sits in the centre of this nest. A really visually pleasing dish that makes you not want to eat it. However, we did eat the dish and the quail egg was really yum – the centre yolk was like liquid gold with the perfect texture to it. We had to ask if we could eat the “nest” and once told we could, we devoured every last bit. There was potato at the bottom which was my favourite tasting part.

For mains I ordered the Wild mushroom and Potato Ragout with Pearled Barley and Greens. This has to one of the prettiest dishes plated up that I have received this year. The Pearled Barley was in a heaped perfect circle, topped with the wild mushrooms and the green placed on top of the mushrooms – like a layered trifle. Beetroot jus was placed artistically around the plate along with a few of the wild mushrooms. I loved the combination of all the elements of the dish. The texture of the pearled barley with the mushrooms worked well together, and the flavours were all round delicious. A really great dish to try out.

G ordered the Duck breast, sautéed roasted vegetables, poached pears, blood and berry jus –w which was also beautifully presented. The sautéed roasted vegetables were colourfully placed in the centre of the black plate with the tender duck breast flanking each side. The poached pear was next to the duck breast and the dish was finished with a whole small red onion and berry jus. G did like her dish and said the duck was cooked really well, and overall the flavours combined together really well – she just wasn’t a fan of the beetroot (it just isn’t a veggie she likes).

We also ordered the Seasonal roasted vegetables on Goats curd with Ashed Goats Cheese to share which was actually quite a large dish. The dish was a variety of carrots char grilled and served with the fresh smoked cheese. The carrots were still juicy and sweet and combined with the smokiness and tang of the cheese was a great result. We were so full from our individual main dishes that we couldn’t finish this veggie dish – I guess in hindsight we ordered a bit too much.

When it came to dessert time we decided to share the Lavender Ice Cream, Lemon and Vanilla Sponge, White Chocolate Soil. The dish came plated up on a long dish with the lavender ice cream scoop on one side and the lemon and vanilla sponge on the other with the white chocolate soil diagonally placed around the two. The lavender ice cream was great- had the lavender flavouring mixed together in a creamy end result. The lemon and vanilla sponge was not as soft as I expected it to be but provided a different texture to the dish. The elements together worked quite well and the addition of the white chocolate soil I thought was a necessary component.

I really enjoyed the food, atmosphere and the helpfulness and friendliness of the staff at duNord. I loved the plating up of the food especially as well as the versatile and different flavours and elements used. If you visit on a Wednesday there is something called Lill Lördag (Little Saturday). This is a night of Swedish street food and drink specials on offer to celebrate the week’s halfway mark, along with some great music to match. Definitely check this place out and try out some delightful Scandinavian cuisine.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – You can find the menu here http://www.dunord.com.au/news/nordic-kitchen-here or look at the menu pic above.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Inviting, Relaxed and Welcoming
Standout Dish:Pine Smoked Quail Nest AND Wild mushroom and Potato Ragout with Pearled Barley and Greens (I had to pick two)
Service: Fantastic!! Really friendly and really know their information about each dish!
Online Booking: Yes via website – www.dunord.com.au – there is a DIMMI link
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.dunord.com.au
367 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9642 0052

Opening Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 12pm – Late
Friday: 12pm – 1am
Saturday: 6pm – 1am

duNord on Urbanspoon

Mercy Bar + Eatery – A Great Change

panda-4-rating1

NOTE: THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED

G and I headed for dinner to Mercy Bar + Eatery on a Friday night. I had been there when this place was Virginia Plain, so was keen to see what the changes were. I did enjoy the food at Virginia Plain but thought the Degustation menu we did could have been a bit better. Check out my review here – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/virginia-plain-contemporary-european-cuisine/

Mercy Bar + Eatery is located at the top end of Flinders Lane (near Spring Street) where the old Virginia Plain used to be. Marco Santucci is still the owner, Andy Hammer is still the chef and Mat Beyer is still front-of house – but what has changed is the interior and the menu. Artist Steve Cross has redecorated the interior with graffiti art and it’s funky to say the least! The artwork is colourful, bright, intriguing and can be talked about for quite some time. There are pictures of contorted faces and objects with varying shapes and colours.

The venue is fit out with wooden tables and chairs in the dining area of the restaurant, with the front section having communal tables and high tables for drinks and gatherings. The lighting is quite dim, with not many light shades fitted out through the venue, although it creates a great ambience. Near the table we are at there is one light to the left of us, together with artwork of a woman’s face in green and pink tones (have a look at the picture above). The kitchen is open plan and located in the back of the dining area so you can see the chefs preparing your meals.

I got there a tad bit earlier than G so ordered a mocktail – they asked what kind of flavours I wanted and would make one to match that. The result was a fruity, orangey and lime concoction which was quite refreshing.

Once G arrived we decided on what food we would want. The menu is new and has an emphasis on bar snacks with 12 to choose from. There is a variety of entrees – there are about 7 to choose from which include eel, quail, wagyu and kingfish – together with a selection of 4 different salads. Mains are also available ( you can choose from 5) and these include Fish, Beef Cheek, Wagyu and Pork Belly and finished with Desserts – there are also 5 to choose from. The waitress informs us that there are also specials available – one from the entrée section and one from the main section.

To start with we decided to get the Eel & Roasted Beetroot Salad with Horse Radish Cream and the Hand Cut Chips to share. I love that there was Eel on the menu – there aren’t many places that serve eel so I was definitely keen to try this dish. The dish was presented beautifully and was such a colorful dish against a black dish. The horse radish cream served as a base, where pieces of eel, beetroot, swirls of onion and crisps were daintily placed around. The eel was seasoned perfectly and was cooked just as well. They were bite sized pieces of eel and together with the horse radish cream and sweetness of the beetroot was a delicious dish. The Hand Cut Chips were also just as amazing. They chips were all different shapes and had some bits of potato skin left but this is what made them so good – they were authentic and fantastic. The potato was fresh and the chips seasoned with a perfect amount of salt.
Next up was the mains – G ordered one of the specials on offer and got the Lamb Special Sauteed served with Beetroot, Carrot and Potato Mash and I ordered the Hapuka Fillet, Du Puy Lentils, Caramelised Endive. Once again presentation of both these dishes was great. My dish came with the Du Puy Lentils and the two pieces of Hapuka Fillet placed on top with the endive and salad leaves around it. There was also a smearing of mash. The Du Puy Lentils was my favourite component of this dish – the sauce in which it was cooked in was really delicious. It had a sweet and nutty taste to it and really brought the whole dish together. Couple with the perfectly cooked fish – the skin was crackled and crunchy – and the mash it really was a great fish dish. I am not an endive fan so didn’t eat too much of this component. G enjoyed her dish as well, however she said that the Lamb had too many fatty bits to it and she found her mash a tad bit too salty.
We were both really quite full from the meals but decided to share a dessert dish – we went with the Hot baby Madeleines with Selection of Custards. The Custards that came out was a lime custard. The Madeleines were warm and crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside with the sweetness just right. The Madeleines came in the same bag style that the bread was served and it felt like they were never-ending – which was really great because you could just keep eating them. The custards were great as well, and added some tang to go with the sweetness. It really was a great way to bring together a pretty good meal.
Mercy Bar + Eatery is a great place to come for a dinner or even a quick snack and drinks – a place for casual, relaxed dining. On this Friday night by the time it got to 7pm the place was buzzing with people mostly around the bar area having drinks. The dining area too was quite filled up. The team behind this new venture have stepped it up from Virginia Plain days and it really is a great transition. I definitely want to come back and try things from the Bar Snacks menu.

NOTE: Mercy Bar + Eatery will still take bookings for its dining section down the back, and anyone who was a previous customer at Virginia Plain will always be able to book – a thank you for being there from the start.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Menu can be found at http://mercybareatery.com.au/Menu.html Drinks Menu can be found at http://mercybareatery.com.au/Drinks.html You can also do a 5 Course Tasting Menu for $65 ($40pp extra with matched wines). There is also an Express Lunch Menu – 2 courses + wine for $25
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Vibrant and Fun – has a great drinks culture
Standout Dish: Eel & Roasted Beetroot Salad with Horse Radish Cream
Service: Friendly, Keen and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://mercybareatery.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://mercybareatery.com.au/
31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9290 0400

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 12pm – Late

Mercy bar + eatery on Urbanspoon