The Rainbow Paddle Pop of restaurants
LIGHT Years at Burleigh Heads may just be the architectural equivalent of a Rainbow Paddle Pop.
Colour blocked in the iconic ice-cream's signature shades, it boasts all the fun and charm of the classic frozen confection with its servery-style tilting windows, banquette and booth seating, water colour murals, loud wallpaper, neon signs and boldly tiled bar.
It's playful and relaxed, but unlike the Streets original, it is far from chilled.
Two airconditioners inside seem to have as much wind power as a one-year-old blowing out a birthday candle, while nearby fans aren't switched on creating an almost choking fug when you walk through the doors on a hot summer's day.
While a detoxifying sauna sweat sesh is probably just what my body needs, we decide to sit outside along the footpath where niches in the restaurant wall have been turned into cushion-lined banquettes (unfortunately, awkwardly too high for the tables) opposite white-powder coated chairs.
While the look and feel of the eatery may be Mexican cantina-meets-Greek taverna, the culinary offering is pan-Asian, incorporating share-style plates running from dumplings and DIY bao to duck pancakes and curries.
This is the third Light Years venture (it opened in November) for Melbourne restaurateurs James Sutherland and Kim Stephen, with the other outlets in Byron Bay and Noosa offering similar menus with the exception of a few bespoke dishes.
Exclusive to Burleigh is the raw ocean trout ($24) - twirls of the soft fish pose like roses on the plate in a bed of gently smoked coconut cream, seaweed oil, pickled green chilli, shiso and ponzu for citrusy acid. Get all the elements together in the perfect ratio and it's a light and zingy bite.
A quartet of mud crab and scallop dumplings ($16) come wrapped in neon-pink skins, the flavour surprisingly subtle compared to their bright exteriors, even with a dunking in the accompanying red vinegar.
For a far bolder bite, however, the char sui barbecue pork ($24) stands up to the task. The slices of pig have that tender touch usually only achieved from sous vide, and come lacquered in a sugar-based, salty sauce that works in sweet harmony with the char-marked triangles of pineapple that have been soaked in a fiery kimchi liquid. But beware, you'll need the accompanying herb salad - and maybe even a glass of milk - to tame the inferno in your mouth.
Void of the same incendiary kick is the beef cheek rendang ($36). Delicately sweet with coconut and layered with aromats, the turmeric-stained broth laps against expertly braised cheek pieces, which collapse like dominoes under the lightest pressure of a fork.
We carry the coconut theme into dessert with the coconut and pandan sago ($16) one of only two sweet options available. It is just what you want on a mercury-spiking day, the cool, little, starchy pearls creamy with coconut striking a balance with delightfully sharp strawberry juice and pieces.
Also helping keep you cool on a warm day is the drinks list.
Cocktails use local spirits like Byron Bay's Brookie's Gin and Ink Gin from North Tumbulgum, while giving them an Asian accent with combinations such as a Geisha Sour mixing umeshu, lemon and bitters or the pleasantly tart Girl Next Door with kiwi syrup, fresh kiwi, lime and black sesame.
Local beers, including Black Hops and Balter, are available by the can or bottle, while Singapore's Tiger is on tap.
The biodynamic/sustainable-leaning wine list also begs exploring thanks to a solid variety of styles from desirable labels, including their own house wines made by respected NSW vineyard Jilly.
Service could do with a little work, however, as staff range from the helpful to the aloof, and at times lack common sense.
There is plenty to like about this Asian eatery and with a few minor tweaks to things like the seating, airconditioning and service, it has the potential to be light years ahead of its competition.
Food 3.5 stars
Ambience 4 stars
Service 3 stars
Value 3 stars
Must try Beef rendang
1848 Gold Coast Hwy, Burleigh Heads; (07) 5576 0075 lightyearsdiner.com.au
Mon-Thur 5pm-11pm, Fri-Sun noon-11pm