In all my time in the tristate area, I have yet to see a single Icelandic restaurant. (If anyone knows of one, please let me know as I would love to check it out!) So, the first question I received after returning from Iceland last week was “What type of food did they serve there?” As far as I can tell, the answer is everything. We passed regular pizzeria’s, subways, and plenty of burger joints. That being said, Iceland is also know for some of their more unusual cuisine.
We did some adventurous eating while there but also opted for some comfort food after a long days tour. I’ll take you through our culinary experience from the most harmless to the ewww you ate that...
The first night of our trip we were exhausted and were looking for something convenient. We were in luck, since the Lebowski Bar(lebowski.is) was right around the corner from our hotel! As you may have guessed, this is named after the famous movie “The Big Lebowski” and references to the movie can be seen everywhere throughout the bar. The menu consisted of bar type food such as burgers, fries, chicken wings etc. More importantly, they have an entire menu of White Russian’s! No trip to Lebowski bar is complete without one! Brian and I split a burger and fries, and the food was good but not earth shattering.
|Lebowski bar complete with neon signs|
|The white russian menu has so many tasty choices, we ordered the white chocolate russian|
Now, if you have ever googled “food in Iceland,” the burger’s are not the first thing to come up, but their hotdogs are! It seems the most famous food place in all of Iceland is a hot dog stand, called Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. The stand is located right by the harbor and was opened late (we made a 1am hotdog run after our Northern Lights tour and there was a long line even then.) Famous people such as Bill Clinton and Anthony Bourdain have even eaten there.
|Iceland's most famous restaurant, a hot dog stand!|
When ordering the hot dog, they will encourage you to get everything on it, so just go with it. “Everything” consists of ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion, and remoulade, which is a yellowish sauce that is sorta mayonnaise and relish combo. Beware that the ketchup and mustard are not the same as what what we use on our hotdogs here. We thought they were good, but not the “best in the world.”
|Notice the color of the condiments|
Since we were in Iceland and not at a backyard BBQ, we had to try more than just their hamburgers and hotdogs! Being an island, Iceland is of course know for their fresh seafood. On Saturday night, we opted for a restaurant called Tapas www.tapas.is, which has Spanish style tapas except with Icelandic food. They had something called an “adventure menu” which was an Icelandic gourmet feast of almost everything they are known for in one sitting, which I obviously had to order. Two of our friends split a double order with me since this is a lot of food. Below is a snapshot of the offerings, and the waiter also strongly recommended we order an additional horse tapa, so we went for it.
|The adventure menu at Tapas|
The 3 notable items were puffin, mink whale, and the additional order of horse. The puffin was a cold dish, and because of the blueberry Brennivin sauce, it tasted like a shot with sushi consistency. Sounds good right?? None of us really liked it, but we ate it, mostly out of guilt.
|Cold Puffin Dish. Does this look like it tastes good?|
The whale... the controversy over whale killing weighed heavy on the three of us. In the end, we opted to try it, out of curiosity and to see what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately, we now realize why the Icelander’s eat this endangered animal. It was perhaps one of the most amazing things we have all ever eaten. It came in some sort of reduction sauce which greatly added to the flavor and tasted unlike any fish or meat we have ever had before. I can’t even describe the flavor. We were all glad this dish isn’t ready available in the states as we don’t want the temptation of eating it at home!
|The whale with some mashed sweet potatoes|
Finally, the animal that got the ewww factor when telling people at home, horse. Horses are to Iceland as sheep are to Ireland/New Zealand. They are everywhere! So it was no surprise that they also eat them since there are so many in the country! The taste was actually very similar to that of a roast beef, and it even came with a similar brown gravy sauce. We all agreed that it was tasty.
|Horse. Looks like roast beef...|
Honorable eww factor mention: The last night of our trip, we opted to forego another expensive dinner since last night's was $50+ per person. So, we ended up at another burger joint, called Roadhouse. The man at the front desk of our hotel recommended this to us and told us they serve “American” style burgers. You can see the menu here- http://roadhouse.is/burgers3 and this just shows you what they must think of the way Americans eat. Burgers had things on them like mac and cheese and... I kid you not...an entire grill cheese sandwich in between a layer of bacon on a burger. They also had a burger that replaced the buns with a donut on each end (disgusting.) A few of us ordered the mac and cheese burger and one in our group even ordered the grill cheese burger. It was as fattening and deliciously gross (in a good way) as it sounds. DISCLAIMER: we do not eat like this at home!
Second honorable mention: We didn’t indulge in this gem; but worth mentioning, is the Icelandic delicacy fermented shark, called Hakarl. You can read more about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hákarl , it is a traditional dish sometimes served at holidays and is described as producing an involuntary gag reflex. We had heard about this from many people before arriving and asked the front desk receptionist as well as tour guides about it and got a resounding response of “this tastes terrible, don’t eat it.” So, we didn’t see it on any menus during our trip, and we didn’t bother to seek it out.
What do you think of trying whale and puffin? Would you have sought out the fermented shark?