Thursday, June 30, 2016

24 HOURS in Reykjavik: A Whirlwind Tour of Iceland Restos: Hlolla Batar; Boejarins Beztu Pylsur; Fish Company; Kopar; Sjavargrillid Seafood Grill; Dill; Matur og Drykkur

By Chance I became very good friends on-line with Reykjavik resident Ymir Arthursson. It turned out that we shared the same passion of eating well. We corresponded at length about food, food experiences and the culture of Iceland (or as he refers to it as "Niceland"). 

Ymir turned out to be a most convivial, fun loving friend with wide ranging interests.  After a few months of correspondence I very much looked forward to my visit with him. He escorted me as a good friend would and was indeed a pleasure to be with. 

As it turned out, Ymir and his delightful wife Hebba, own Magical Iceland (, a highly experienced and very knowledgeable touring firm that specializes in tours for foodies. They are very well versed in the cultural demographic and natural wonders of the island and its history. But, added bonus, they love to eat well and know many of the best chefs personally.

I landed at about 3pm in the afternoon, got settled in my hotel and by 4pm, off we went to eat, having a lot of ground to cover before midnight!

One important note of interest. I really wanted to try Icelandic lamb, as I had heard so much about its history and unique flavour. Icelandic lamb is the only lamb in the world that has not been crossed with any species of foreign lamb since lamb was brought to Iceland by the first viking settlers around 850AD! All lamb is descended from the original Norwegian stock. 

OK you skeptics, Hlolla Batar was the first place I was taken and frankly I was a bit shocked when I arrived and realized what Ymir expected me to eat. At first I thought it was a joke! However, I decided to go with the flow. I knew that some of the restos we would be hitting, as the evening wore on, were some of the most important in Iceland, culminating in the restaurant Dill.

Hlolla Batar

"Head boat" (hofdabatur)....lamb with melted cheese, lettuce, cabbage, ham, fried onions and hlolli sauce (this sauce seemed to be mayo with ketchup, mustard, sugar and vinegar in some proportion with a touch of a hot sauce mixed in for a bit of a bite). Now, this is not the kind of sandwich a foodie would go out of his way for on a major food trip. But, I was glad I tasted it. It was good for what it was. A lot of tourists come here on their own, or are taken. But, would I go out of my way for this experience.....NO!

Next, I was taken to what is considered one of the best hot dog stands in the world. Even I knew about it from previous reading. Further, it was on my list of must try places in Reykjavik. Boejarins Beztu Pylsar has been around since the 1940's. Lines snake away from this spot, all day, every day. So, I felt reassured that it must be good!

Boejarins Beztu Pylsur

The simple hot dog. Was it good? Yes, the skin had a nice snap and the filling was quite tasty. Was it worth me trying? Yes, because the spot is so much a part of the food culture here. Worth going out of your way for if you are just here for a short time? No. But I could have easily eaten 2 or 3, if several more restos were not planned for this night!

Fish Company

On the left, dill butter  and on the right, caramelized brown butter, accompanied by sea salt.

Seasonal Foods From Around Iceland (The Next Few Dishes)

Fried langoustine, roasted squid, with spring onion mayonnaise, ginger pickled carrots, sliced chili and garlic chives.

Salted, slowly cooked filet of cod, with lovage, seaweed, pickled celery, smoked apple slices, dill oil, warm egg foam and smoked cod roe mayonnaise.

Gravlax accompanied by an onion-tarragon consomme with beer pickled turnip, beer bread, tarragon emulsion, cured egg yolk and pickled red onion.

Burnt and marinaded tuna with peppered watermelon, lemongrass granita, avocado puree, fried lotus root, sliced radish and sesame mustard dressing.


Here, Icelandic rock crab is brought directly from the fjord.

Rock crab soup soup, loaded with perfectly cooked rock crab, spinach, baby shrimp and bean sprouts. 

Crispy crab (local) cakes topped with fluffy remoulade.

Cured salmon and seaweed biscuit.

Sjavargrillid Seafood Grill

Shell fish soup with blue mussels, scallop, shrimp and fennel.

Puffin, European shag and minke whale tartar with mustard, hazelnut, dill and red currant. I had a tough time eating the minke whale, it being a big brained mammal. The taste was distinctive but not overly pleasant. Maybe it was my bias? I was being polite eating this dish, with my friend Ymir.


Dill is Iceland's most important resto and is expressive of evolving Nordic cuisine from an Icelandic perspective, created by chef Gunnar Karl.


 Carrots, smoked mayo and dried sÖl.

Chicken and roasted yeast. 

Crispy dried catfish and burned butter cream.

NO Photos: Oats, trout roe and sea truffle; Rutabaga and smoked roe.


Bread and local butter. 

Mussels, celery, watercress and parsley.

Tusk, kale and black garlic. 

 Beet root, cherries and dried guillemot.

Potato, smoked lumpfish, lumpfish roe and dill. 

Lamb, sunchokes and crowberries. 

 Carrot, buttermilk and barley.

Skyr (the uniquely delicious local yogurt), rhubarb and cookies.

Matur Og Drykkur

I was not mentally prepared for how truly good the food experience would be at this resto. In fact I found that this was the most interesting, satisfying gustatory experience that I enjoyed in Iceland. The best of local foods, presented simply, perfectly executed from a refined perspective. This kind of experience, for me, is the most satisfying and is exemplified by such International restaurants as Kitty Fisher's in London, Edulis in Toronto, Pied de Cochon in Montreal, etc.

Very good bread and sweet churned butter.

 Trout smoked in sheep's dung with burnt flatbread.

Sliced, double smoked lamb with buttermilk and nutmeg.

Wonderful, perfectly cooked, remarkably tender organic Icelandic lamb with potatoes, rhubarb jam, winter kale, crowberries and crowberry juice. The lamb texture and flavour reminded me of our spring lamb, but with a preferable, very pleasing, slightly gamey flavour.

Now, this dish was for me, the piece de resistance!!! Cod's head (yes, it was quite huge) cooked in chicken stock with sugar and kelp. Remarkably delicious! No food lover coming to Iceland should ever miss this dish, as created by this chef.

Deep fried cod chins (or as the Basque would call this, koktxas).

The accompanying potato salad was very good.

NO PHOTO: Icelandic twisted doughnuts "kleina" topped with licorice-lemon zest-cardamom sugar and sided with caramelized whey sauce. Delicious! 

Chocolate mousse topped with rhubarb granite and a piece of licorice flavoured meringue. Interesting combination of flavours and a satisfying ending to a terrific meal.

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