Saturday, June 15, 2013

Taste of Helsinki 2013

Taste of Helsinki calls itself as a boutique pique nique. The idea is simple: 12 restaurants (including three Michelin star restaurants from Helsinki) are making their signature dishes and you can choose your own menu from all of the restaurants.

We visited the event also last year, when it was held for the first time. I have to say that this year the event was fine, but some how last year was better. Maybe it`s due to the weather, which was last year sunny and hot, this time cold and rainy. Piquenique in the rain is not anything you are fancying for.

Food was fine, but nothing mind blowing this time expect Juuri's Wild Boar and Salt-Caramel Cake were our teams favourites. Unfortunately no pictures - fingers were frozen at that time.  For the next year, let's hope better weather (or bigger and warmer tents + blankets).

Taste of Helsinki is open until Sunday afternoon! 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Fjöruborðið, Stokkseyri

The legend says that many people lost their lives in the stormy winter season of Iceland, trying to reach this place to have what is suppose to be the best shellfish soup of the island.

So we went to check Fjöruborðið by ourselves, in the quiet and sunny spring season.

Located about 60km South East of Reykjavik in the little town of Stokkseyri  (very good roads to drive there), Fjöruborðið restaurant looks like a very basic local restaurant that nothing really let a newcomer think about its worldwide reputation. Again it is a place where it is advised to book ahead.

The restaurant is located near the sea. It is divided in 2 main hall. The sea side view hall which at the time we visited seemed to be allocated to tourists and large groups, and the other half facing the parking lot, which actually gives a warmer feeling and where tables seemed occupied mostly by Icelanders.

As, according to the legend, we risked our lives to go there we went for the full set:
Shellfish soup as starter
Langoustines and side dishes as main
Piece of one of the cake of the day as dessert

The Shellfish is really really good, and deserves its legend. Nevertheless, some rumors around the island says that the recipe came originally from a small place, closed nowadays, in Borgarnes (North of Reykjavik). Who knows the truth?

The plate of Langoustine was very tasty but as usual with this kind of meal: very messy to eat. This is expecially true for all these tourist who are not used to eat this dish. At some extent it almost feel that the waiters are more making fun of you than giving you tips on how to fully enjoy your meal.

Actually, and it is sad to mention it again, the service was again an issue in this place. Not that it is not professional in the act of serving you dishing and taking your orders but you may feel not really welcomed by some waiters there.

Anyway our main advice for this place is:
Go there but order only the shellfish soup as main course.
This is definitely the highlight of the place. You can have better plates of langoustine or lobster in Europe or in the US. The cakes aren't either anything special even if they look massive at first.

But don't miss the soup, it is a must try!

Friday, May 10, 2013

​Sjávargrillið, Reykjavík

 If you go to trip adviser and check what is the first restaurant listed for Reykjavik you will find ​Sjávargrillið. A place with so much good publicity was to be tried. Due to the little fuzz around the place, the only way to get a table for diner is currently to book ahead. So we went to ​Sjávargrillið with high expectations.

The place is located in the very centre of Reykjavík, you will pass by it many times, if you are sight seeing or shopping in the centre. The place is relatively small and decorated in a a kind of bistro hype style (the bow ties on the coaches are a good find).

We went for some of their full diner menu sets, because this was was suppose to be our (one of) the best food experience in Iceland. 

The Fish feast in one hand, which consisted of a shellfish soup as starter, the fish of the day and some white chocolate mousse threat for dessert. On the other side of the table we went for the so called 'Taste of Iceland' menu: a small sea food appetizer, a starter plate with what I will call 'forbidden' meat, an amazing Lamb dish and a Icelandic chocolate cake for dessert.

The fish menu was fine, no doubt on that, but wait a minute, wasn't this suppose to be the best place in Reykjavík? Then we have to admit that the fish dishes were only average. The presentation of the dishes is something they should improve a bit. The presentation is messy and the food journey lost a bit of its wonder.

About the 'Taste of Iceland', that is tricky one. What I called 'forbidden plate' consist of the main tourist meat attractions, puffin and Minke Whale. To be honest I will remember this dish forever, but not because I had an amazing food experience, but because afterwards I realized that even if whale meat does taste good (let's be honest), it is mostly hunted and prepared in restaurants in Iceland because of the tourists. And all this cause big damages to environment.

Another sad thing is that the Minke Whale meat tends to be one of the cheapest meat in the most of the restaurants. The reason is that it is cheaper to hunt these animals than to grow cattle on the island. That's not right. If you are interested in whales, more in their real habitat rather than in your plate take a look to

But let's talk back about the food.

The lamb course was probably the highlight of the evening. An amazingly tasty piece of lamb. Sometime soft  sometime crispy that was just delicious. Icelandic lamb is the best I ever tasted so far (but I found even better lamb dishes in other places around the island).

A small comment about the desserts: They were fine, but again we were expecting more from this place. For a chocolate lover, the chocolate cake was tasting very mild while I was expecting chocolate explosion in my mouth.

And last but not least, let's have a word about the service. First of all let's say here that Reykjavík restaurant scene seems to have a problem with its waiters and waitresses. It's not like the parisian waiter who won't even smile and be mean on purpose, it's just that even if they try hard sometimes to act professional there is this kind of distance which makes you feel that they don't really care about you as a customer. Also, the biggest issue we found with the service was the speed at which the dishes were brought. Kind of express service. We even observed that on some neighbors tables some warm dishes were brought to table while customers were outside for a smoke. 

As a conclusion, if you want to save money in Reykjavík, you can skip this place, it is not anything you will remember forever. As a matter of fact, by talking with many Icelanders, this place is mostly filled up with tourist, not with locals. So remember the basic rule of 'always go where locals are going'!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Café SÓLON, Reykjavík

One of the place you won't miss, if you are walking up and down Reykjavík main streets in city centre.

Café SÓLON is a brasserie type of place and also a art gallery. That's a good spot to grab a soup or a sandwich before you head to some afternoon excursion for example.

Their club sandwiches are massive and very tasty. You'll find Turkey, chicken and bacon in there, served with french fries, enough to feed a man for the day. Thee bagels are also a very good option there.

By the time we went there in the early spring, it looked a bit like a toursits place, but locals talk also about this place so when the summer days are coming it might be a pleasant place to have a fast and affordable simple meal. And more thing to add here, the staff is actually quite friendly and helpful!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Grillmarkaðinn, Reykjavík

Grillmarkaðinn (Grill Market) is one of the the best rated food place in Reykjavík at the moment, so we went to check it out.

The place is located in a nice old building in the very centre of Reykjavík. The walls are decorated with fish skins and it has a very nice design spiced with the cool atmosphere. The main part of the kitchen grill is open to the customers on the upper floor (the place has also more room downstairs), so as it is the trend now you can have a look on how your meal is prepared, if you like it.

If you plan to go there in the evening they recommend that you book a table ahead, we went there for lunch and no reservation was needed then.

The menu offers mostly products from local producers, and in most of case it is organic grown. Have a look to their website, there are interviews of the farmers, some may give you a smile (my favorite being the story from the skyr farmer and his motivation to start his business).

The menu offers a choice of meat and sea food, along with the typical tourist meal which is minke whale meat (see the post about Sjávargrillið, if you want to know more about minke whales. The post will be published in the end of the week).

So we went for the beef burger on one side and some monkfish and vegetables grill skewers and salad in the other. The burger was good, but to my taste the meat was too minced. Perhaps it was either made of a too good piece (not much fat to tied it up) or there was some liver part added to the meat. Nevertheless, the bun was sweet and crispy, and the fries coming along simply gorgeous. But that did not make it the best burger in town.

The skewers were very tasty. Especially the monkfish skewer melted in the mouth. Because mademoiselle was advised to take at least two skewers (they are rather small) the strong taste of grill sauce started be overwhelming. All this plus the dish dish salad, mademoiselle was very well eaten. So, this time we skipped desert. 

As a overall it a good place to have a meal, but we were a bit disappointed by the service, which seems to be a general trend in many places around Reykjavík. A very friendly and professional doorman will be waiting to sit you at the entrance, but then the waiters and waitresses seem a bit disorganized and not really dedicated to their job. Not really helpful in your choice, just giving you enough smile that you don't feel offended, but taking ages to answer your requests. The main issue we encountered was with the check which tooks long time to come and even longer to get sorted and paid.

We still do recommend the place, the food is good there and the place looks like they try very hard to give it a personality. Next time we want to try the place at the dinner time. Improvement on the service is the next challenge for Grillmarkaðinn.