102 Smith Street
+61 3 9416 0698
Fakebooo wasn’t my first gay boyfriend. I had a wonderful solid relationship with Juds during our pre-uni days. Movies after school, KTV sessions on public holidays, heck, we joked about marrying each other if we were still single by the age of thirty. But of course, The Angmoh came along and I was a goner. Anyway, when Juds finally announced that he would visit me in wintry Melbourne, I was elated! And to make it even more exciting, he was getting into the food scene, having watched the American, Canadian and Australian versions of Masterchef and experimenting and learning from his mum in the kitchen.
I wrecked my brain trying to come up with a dinner location to take him to. I wanted it to be simple yet well-executed, easy to comprehend yet delicious and stylish without the drama. I had come across many a positive review about Northern Light and decided that yep, that would be it.
There’s a never ending list of eateries along Smith Street and Northern Light is amongst them. A handsome bar occupies most of the narrow space of the restaurant, topped with a maze of twisted wires and lights. The menu leans strongly towards Asian fusion with most of the dishes designed for sharing.
Juds left the ordering up to us but he did insist on a serve of pork crackle. The Angmoh, as usual, had a lone oyster to start his dinner. Typically laconic when it comes to describing his food, he simply slurped it up and nodded in approval. The whipped tofu with Asian veges came next with a heady scent of sesame oil. Dressed in light soy, it was an elegant yet humble Chinese dish. I thought the broad beans had been cooked beautifully, for they were soft and lacked bitterness. Juds described the whipped tofu as “squashed tofu that’s been whipped, lor” and almost had me snorting out the light airy soy curd. The smoked eel croquette was a stunner. The slivers of eel provided a mild smokiness and the dill gave the rice an unexpected but pleasant aroma. Juds couldn’t get enough of the lush rich mayo that came along with the croquettes.
Our mains of lamb ribs and mushroom okayu were set down, shortly followed by the pork crackle. The ribs were finger-licking good and fell off the bone without much effort. The flavour of the lamb was sealed within the charred edges, making it one very tasty dish. The okayu turned out to be similar to congee. It was salty and could possibly use more truffle, or at least truffle oil for a bit more pizzazz. The crackle had Juds full attention. It was the most sinful keropok I’d come across, with the deep fried pig skin covered with lashings of mayo. It was good but I’d rather a plate of roast pork belly crackling anytime.
For dessert, we decided to sample the broken ice cream sandwich and the tteok (pronounced “tok”). The former turned out to be vanilla ice cream topped with velvety chocolate mousse surrounded by shards of cocoa biscuits. I loved every bit of it. Juds was really interested in the tteok as he had been living in Korea for a little while. Usually a savoury dish, he reckoned the rice cakes had been steamed and then fried to achieve a soft and fluffy texture, while retaining the expected chewiness and crisp outlines. It was drizzled with maple and topped with sesame seeds for a savoury contrast.
Dinner at Northern Light was extremely enjoyable. The food, although lacking a wow factor, is consistently pleasant. Service is exemplary and makes the overall experience a night to remember. We capped our evening off with a stroll while checking out some of the art works from the Gertrude Street Projection Festival. This was my favourite.