In the former shell of Gigibaba, Northern Light Bar & Eatery is evolving as the new go-to restaurant on Smith Street.
This industrial space on Smith Street, with exposed brick walls and a long, narrow dining area, wasn’t the first choice of venue for owners Adam Liston and Glen Bagnara. At first they had their eyes on Peel Street’s The Star instead, where chef Liston did a series of pop-ups as dining concept Borrowed Space. However, when it was sold from under them, the former site of Gigibaba became the perfect spot for Northern Light Bar & Eatery.
“I wanted a bar concept with Chinese and Japanese inspired food that can be shared,” Liston says. His two-year stint in Shanghai is apparent throughout the menu. “I wanted to do food that I wanted to eat without all the fuss of fine dining.”
Just as Liston intended, the menu is designed for sharing, with 20-or-so dishes in small or large, all with Asian flavours. Start with the daily sashimi, such as the palate cleansing seared salmon, pickles and katsuo soy, before delving into the tagarashi-crusted whitebait (the shellfish mayo begging for a double dip) and/or finely sliced bresaola hidden beneath yolk, crispy potato and wasabi imported from Japan.
You’ll need to work for your chilli crab, extracting the fine meat from the dense shell, but it’s well worth the effort given its XO onion, celery and coriander base. Save room for the broken ice-cream sandwich with subtle matcha and oozy caramel, perfect for sharing (if you can bring yourself to).
Individual diners can position themselves at the bar with a cold Sapporo and feast on skewers – the shitake offering is great for vegetarians. Other drink options include cider, wine, and a concise selection of cocktails.