Suited perfectly to the Burleigh dining scene, Light Years opened to much fanfare late in 2019, owners Kim Stephen and Stephen Filipovic extending their holdings of sister restaurants in Byron Bay and Noosa.
Named after ‘the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one Julian year’, it’s ‘light years’ away from the food beachgoers ate even ten years ago, showing us how much the coast’s dining scene has changed in a short time.
Transfer some Asian classics with a twist into an ultra-hip venue with a happening bar and cool dudes serving and there you have it – Light Years.
OK, so that’s simplifying the whole deal, but there’s some truth there, as well as a lot to please diners, especially those who are fashion-conscious. There’s no denying it: Light Years is uber-cool!
We’ve booked a table for lunch when we dine, thank goodness, or there would have been no seat at all. As it is, we’re assigned high ‘perches’, so uncomfortable that I stand for half the meal. There are some lower tables, including a couple of booths, but most of the front tables which enjoy both air and light, either through windows or the sky lit front roof, are high.
In pastel shades with bursts of colour, the décor of Light Years is pretty, the vibe punchy, with music loud enough to create a party. Walls are lit up by the art of Byron Bay creative Jai Vasicek, whose work we’ve seen before in restaurants such as MexiCali and Miss Margarita.
The share-style menu is designed for just that – group dining where everyone has a taste of various dishes. There’s plenty to choose from on the menu, drawing flavours from the length of the Asian Archipelago: Kingfish ceviche with coconut, chilli and kaffir lime; deconstructed Korean-style chilli caramel pork bao to assemble yourself; wild mushroom dumplings with chilli and sesame; miso caramel fried eggplant with snake beans, coriander and sesame; and beef cheek rendang slow braised in coconut and lemongrass.
Boasting flavours from Thai, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and various Chinese cuisines, they’re all here in the mix, adapted to Western palates and food preferences, gluten-free and vegan included. Spicy rendang prawns may be cooked in Thai basil and coconut, but they gain the addition of ‘dippy bao buns’; Pickled papaya salad is served with ‘crunchy things’ and nuoc cham.
Despite the mish mash, there’s a hit of flavour in most dishes that appeases even the traditionalist. After all, there’s no pretension at Light Years about being authentic, just a vague reference to the food’s general origin in the venue’s subtitle: ‘Asian Bar & Diner’.
Cocktails too boast an Asian influence, with local and imported beer and a small but eclectic selection of wine, available by the glass or bottle, added to the mix.
Food in Burleigh has changed greatly in the last ten years. So too have prices, with dishes priced from $15 for a basket of five wontons through to $36 for a bowl of rendang (steamed rice an extra $4pp), cocktails $18 and wine $10 – $14 per glass. While not exorbitant, it’s worth noting that a casual lunch with ‘four or five share plates between two people’ and a couple of drinks each could result in a ‘less than casual’ price.
Light Years is open seven days for dinner and drinks, with weekend lunch available from Friday to Sunday.
1848 Gold Coast Hwy, Burleigh Heads Ph: 07 5576 0075
Open: Mon – Thurs 5pm – 11pm; Fri – Sun 12noon – 11pm