Opening first in Byron Bay in 2017, Light Years was all about bringing a fun, modern Asian dining experience to the east coast of Australia. Now known for its flavour-packed dishes, bold cocktails, friendly wait staff and upbeat soundtrack, Light Years has quickly become a beachside favourite. Byron Bay was closely followed by the opening of Light Years Noosa in late 2018, Burleigh Heads in 2019, and most recently, Newcastle in 2022.
Executive chef Robbie Oijvall’s Asian-fusion menu is designed to share and includes Light Years cult classics as well as new dishes such as the Wagyu steak served Korean ‘Bo Ssam’ style; King Prawn rolls with yuzu mayo; and a mango splice dessert that has already become an instant hit.
T Australia sat down with Oijvall to learn more about his journey as a chef, and get the lowdown on his recipe for vegetarian mushroom and ginger wontons.
On becoming a chef…
I used to watch old Keith Floyd cooking shows after school and the idea of travelling the world, experiencing new cultures through food appealed greatly to a small-town boy with big dreams.
On life before Light Years…
After finishing vocational college in Sweden, I left for London and joined the Wagamama group. By 2001 I found myself in Sydney as opening chef for the first international Wagamama franchise. After Wagamama, I worked in Melbourne before moving back to Sydney to open The Local Tap House, in Darlinghurst, one of the first craft beer pioneers in Australia.
After three years as executive chef for the Tap House Group, I went travelling through Southeast Asia and came back to Sydney and opened a little hole-in-the-wall ramen bar in Newtown. I did some stints at some various modern Asian restaurants before I packed my bags and headed up to Byron Bay.
On unwinding after service…
Some nights it is with a single beer, sometimes it’s a bottle of tequila, and some nights a cup of peppermint tea and a rom com.
On always discovering new flavours…
I have been very intrigued by Korean flavours the last few months, so I’ve been driving our Korean chefs mad by asking them all sorts of annoying questions about dishes and techniques.
On cooking at home…
I have an eight year old son, so I like to play it safe and cook what I know he likes, so it’s the usual suspects: spaghetti bolognese, Swedish meatballs, teriyaki salmon and tacos.
On what he’s excited for at Light Years…
Our absolute commitment to become a reliable brand through consistency, innovation and creating a great culture for our staff and customers.
On where he’s headed next…
Unfortunately, I don’t get to check out new places nearly as much as I would like to, but I am super keen to go to Adelaide and check out a couple of places over there!
Light Years’ Mushroom and Ginger Wontons
25 wonton wrappers
Dipping sauce (see below)
250g fresh shiitake mushrooms (halved and sliced)
250g button mushroom (halved and sliced)
1 red onion
60g fresh ginger, grated
50g water chestnut
Soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste
The best dumplings dipping sauce ever
10g dried chilli flakes
100ml vegetable oil
100g chopped garlic
20g sliced coriander stalks (keep leaves for garnish)
250ml black vinegar
100ml sesame oil
300ml soy sauce
150g white toasted sesame seeds
To make the dipping sauce, fry sliced garlic, chilli flakes and coriander stalks in the oil until fragrant. Add the rest of wet ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes. Add sesame seeds, and chill in the fridge until ready.
Finely chop the onion and garlic, and fry in a little bit of oil until fragrant. Add the sliced mushrooms and a splash of water. Turn down the heat and slowly cook out all the moisture out of the mushrooms for about 30 minutes.
Season to taste, then fold through the grated ginger and the finely chopped chestnut. Place in the fridge until ready.
Place a tablespoon of mushrooms mixture in the middle of a wonton skin. Wet the edges and fold to the best of your abilities.
Boil the dumplings in a large pot of water for three minutes. Drain and serve with the dipping sauce and some coriander leaves sprinkled on top.