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Restaurants & Bars 17

Reykjavik, Hand to Mouth

small h | May 18, 201502:27 PM

A brief illustrated report from Iceland, where I recently spent a few days.

Hakarl, aka fermented shark

I got this benign looking snack at the Kolaportid Flea Market. The fish cubes were so redolent of ammonia that I had trouble getting them near my head, although they taste (somewhat) better that they smell. But I couldn't leave Iceland without trying this iconic dish. Once.

Lobster soup from Saegreifinn

I read many glowing reports of the lobster soup at Saegreifinn (the Sea Baron), a no-frills dockside restaurant where patrons dine at communal picnic tables. Served with a loaf of excellent bread, it was the perfect mid-afternoon snack. There's also a food truck that serves a cheaper (and some say, better) lobster soup, but you have to eat it outside. Hah! No way. Iceland is cold.

Catch of the day at Sjávarbarinn

Sjávarbarinn is a two-person operation in a strip mall that shares space with a hamburger joint. This gigantic pot of delicious fish and less delicious (greasy, overcooked) other things came with unlimited salad-y stuff and a quite spectacular fish soup, which was the highlight of the meal. It's a very friendly place, and a good option if you are poor, hungry, and not overly picky.

Laxtartar at Islenski Barinn

Raw salmon, capers, cucumber, onion, lemon and horseradish in a hot dog bun. I would have happily eaten one of these every single day. Whoever came up with this idea should get a MacArthur fellowship.

Mashed Potatoes with Pickled Vegetables and Rye Crisps at Matur og Drykkur

For our fancy meal, we went to this creative restaurant with a very pedestrian name (in English, "Food and Drink"). Traditional Icelandic ingredients, modern style dishes, and not too expensive, at least compared to most of the other "new Nordic" spots in town.

Flatfish for Two at Matur og Drykkur

Portions in Reykjavik were bigger than I expected (but then, so were the people). This beautiful behemoth could have easily fed four. Nothing fussy about it - just fish baked in parchment, so it stays very soft, dressed with dill, capers and grilled lemon.

The only meal of note that I didn't photograph was at Mar, because it was super-dark in there. When I inquired about the preparation for a dish listed on the menu as "Seafood Pan," our (very young) waiter informed me that "it is seafood prepared in a pan, and served in a pan." In case that's not enough description for you - it wasn't for me - the Seafood Pan at Mar is a Malaysian-style coconut curry soup.

On the whole, I found the food in Iceland very interesting and very special.

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