Northern Light (website and Facebook) is a new restaurant where Gigibaba used to be on Smith St. It has retained much of the interior design of its predecessor, but has simplified and removed some of the bling while leaving the distinctive hanging light bulbs. The menu is Japanese – Chinese fusion and represents another variation that adds to the Japanese food precinct around Smith St and Collingwood. It’s been open for about a week.
As well as a la carte, Northern Light offers 4, 5 and 6 course set menus, and the latter two include dessert. Faced with the difficulty of choosing from the menu we took the easy route and asked for the 5 course menu ($59 per person). My girlfriend had a umeshu cocktail that contained bitter orange liquor but it was overall sweet, and I had a glass of very good Tasmanian white wine (Bream‘s schonburger).
It began with an oyster for my girlfriend (not pictured) and an alternative for me (I don’t like oysters) in the form of a golden egg with a perfect gooey yolk. Then came charred shishito peppers and togarashi and wagyu skewers (second course), a wonderful cold soba needle salad with smoked duck (like duck bacon) and chicken skewers (not pictured, third course), chilli crab with xo onions and a salad of edamame, tofu and greens (fourth course) and finally dessert: a deconstructed matcha (green tea) icecream sandwich with chocolate biscuit and caramel sauce (fifth course).
From the top down: cold soba needle salad with smoked duck; golden egg; charred peppers; waygu skewers; chilli crab; edamame salad; and deconstructed icecream sandwich. All the food was good; nothing disappointed, though the flavour of the crab was somewhat obscured by the chilli, and likewise the chocolate biscuit and caramel sauce made the inclusion of matcha icecream superfluous (it could have been vanilla as it was difficult to taste the subtlety of the matcha). The chilis were fantastic but almost too salty (they better suit eating with beer than wine).
The service was charming and very helpful in explaining the menu and assisting us in choosing how to order. The 5 course menu was quite sufficient for us and we would have wanted to be unusually hungry to conquer 6 courses, and I thought the cost was very good value. Northern Light is doing very well to be this good after only a week, and I suspect that, like Gigibaba before them, getting a table or even a seat at the bar is soon going to be a challenge. Get in while you can.