Eating Like a King of the Vikings in Iceland
As soon as I saw that they offered strange or unique foods here in Reykjavik, Iceland such as shark and whale, I knew I would need to try it before I left. The only problem? Well… that shit is expensive! At least, if you’re sticking to a backpacker’s budget and counting every penny for 2 and a half months like I am. This trip is not going to be short, I’ve got to make the best of every penny! So, today I didn’t go on an excursions outside the city. Instead I simply meandered around the city taking pictures here and there and skipped lunch. I had one place in mind which was selling whale and shark as menu items, but as I wandered and more fully explored the city I found another place that offered a 6 course “Icelandic Feast” meal of 6 tapas size dishes, all of Icelandic foods, and that sounded even better!
So, with my tummy a-rumblin and my mouth a-waterin, I set off to get some quality Icelandic eats! After a short and convenient walk I had arrived. The place was called Tapas Barrin and it was set down in the basement floor of its building. Walking in, I noted the dim lighting setting the mood. As I was seated I noted they had plastered the walls to give it a bit of an adobe Spanish feeling with what appeared to be a wooden and reinforced celling again to give it that Spanish feel. I’m sure it was all just for show to create the mood but I liked it. I ordered my meal and soon enough the courses were rolling in.
They started me off with a shot of “Brennivin” which is an Icelandic schnapps with a strong licorice taste to it. It reminds me of my high school days siphoning off of the many peppermint schnapps my parents had stocked away in the basement, in order to bring it to a party or a tail gate! Basically, not altogether a pleasant memory. Super sugary alcohol tends to have a bad ending, in my experience. But now I’m rambling… on to what you’re here for, the food! First they brought out Smoked Puffin with blueberry brennivin sauce. I didn’t know what to expect with this, it looked unlike anything I had ever seen before. It had a distinctly purple color to it, much like the color of beets. The flavor was an interesting combination somewhere between chicken and pork with a consistency closest to a tender rare steak. The temperature is what threw me off most though, it was served cooled, slightly cooler than room temperature. It was like eating meat out of the fridge without warming it. The blueberry brennivin sauce gave it a little extra kick and twang. Altogether, quite good just very different than something I had before.
Next up was Icelandic Sea-Trout with a pepper salsa. The fish was cool, crisp, and fresh but overall a fairly typical white fish. The pepper salsa was more like a tomato salsa to the taste buds with a strong tomato taste and very little kick or spice which is what I would have expected from a pepper salsa. The flavor combination was good though. The salsa gave the fish more flavor and character.
Then they brought the next dish and I didn’t understand what the server said, so I honestly didn’t know what it was, and couldn’t entirely tell from the look of it. It looked kind of like grilled checken, but had the smell of fish. Glancing back at the menu I saw it was “Pan Fried Blue Ling with Lobster sauce”. All sounds pretty good, can’t go wrong with anything that has lobster sauce on it! I dig in, and sure enough it far from disappoints. Again it was a fairly basic white fish but the lobster sauce really shined with just the right hint of lobster and buttery goodness infused into the flavor of the fish. It was on a bed of light and fluffy mashed potatoes as well, which were just the right compliment.
Sure enough as soon as I finished that dish, out came the lamb chop. It was beautifully presented, topped with something that was like a light curly-que that had a nice crisp crunch to it, and a taste almost akin to an onion. The lamb chop was perfectly braised with a crisply seared skin and tender juicy insides. Set on some sweat potatoes, potatoes and carrots.
After I was done with the lamb chop they brought in the Mink Whale with cranberry and mint sauce. This was the second dish where I really had no idea what to expect from it. Surprisingly it was more like a steak than a fish. I was thinking it would be much more like a fish, but I guess that just goes to show what do I know right? Like the puffin, it had more of a purple coloring to it. The taste was similar to a very rare but just slightly stringy beef steak. I know some kinds of whales are endangered, but wasn’t thinking about that until afterwards. I assume and hope that mink whales are not? I would find it hard to believe that many restaurants in town can so openly advertise the sale of an endangered animal’s meat if that was the case. At least I ate the evidence, so they can’t get me in trouble now!
The last main course of the meal was lobster tails cooked in garlic butter. Being from the New England area of the US, there are few foods I enjoy more than lobster, and being human (and not a vampire?) there are few compliments to my food which I enjoy better than garlic! Garlic makes everything better. So naturally I was excited for this one. As they came out though, I noticed something was wrong. That was no lobster tail, they were shrimp surely! Well, they were not shrimp, they were lobster tails but small ones. All three tails I was served could have easily fit into one Main Lobster tail. Despite the lack of size, the meat was still delicious and the garlic butter just as good as always.
To round it all off they served a white chocolate mousse with passion fruit gelato. As with everything else it was very well presented in a fancy manner. Totally going on my Instagram account #foodie! The mouse was perfectly smooth, delectably sweet, and the passion fruit gelato just the right complement of cool and slightly tangy.
All in all, I truly felt as if I had just eaten like a king of the Vikings after that meal had completed, and I had gotten to try some of the unique local dishes, even if my wallet might be a tad lighter as a result.