Reykjavik, Iceland’s well-kept secret: the cuisine of Grillið Restaurant

It may be difficult to pronounce “grillið” in Icelandic, but it translates into “barbecue”. Outside the historic downtown of Reykjavik, Iceland — near the downtown airport — in the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel is Grillið Restaurant. They use accessible Icelandic ingredients in inventive, cool ways. I was very happy to be hosted to experience it!

Perhaps because it’s either a walk or a short cab ride to the hotel from the souvenir shops, etc., Grillið

Restaurant is not overrun with tourists, though I did hear a few American voices. Dress is dressy casual to dressy attire.

The restaurant is on the 8th floor, with huge picture windows, showing off gorgeous views of planes landing and the whole harbor. With the “midnight sun” in the summer, even late night reservations have twilight lighting.

I started with an amuse bouche: cheese crisp with bell pepper foam. It was delicate, melted on the mouth like cotton candy.

The next amuse was smoked local salmon with egg cream. The fish was beautifully fresh and very rich, silky.

Then, came an amuse of house made ham with quince chutney. It was a sweeter, but meaty ham: well marbled, not overly salty or smoked.

The final amuse was lamb tartare with sour cream, bread crumbs and fried minced kale. It was very good! It had earthy, pungent flavors — but not gamy — and interesting textures.

The starter was Icelandic prawns with cod mousse, lumpfish roe, lemon and rose pepper sorbet, arugula, nasturnium, avocado cream. It was exotic, salty from the roe, tropical. The cod mousse was mild. The prawn was very tender, perfectly cooked and perfectly fresh. The avocado adds creaminess and richness to the dish. The sorbet was barely sweet, adding tanginess, appropriate to the dish. It was an imaginative use of Iceland seafood!

The next dish was pan-fried plaice with broccoli, sunflower seeds, locally made Eastboy cheese and cheese foam. Plaice is a buttery, thin mild fish. The dish completely disproves that old saw that seafood and cheese don’t go together! The broccoli had tasty char flavors. The fish was beautifully cooked. The dish itself was unpredictable in it combination, yet all the flavors were able to shine.

The main course was Icelandic rib eye aged for 2 months, oyster mushrooms, charred Spring onions, onion sauce, pearl onions, mache lettuce. The Spring onions were treated like a side veggie in this dish, with smoky flavors. The beef was tender and “beefy” — opposed to mineral or liver — flavored.

There was a pre-dessert (!): dark brown cheese, strawberries from the western part of Iceland, sorbet from rose petals. It was floral and naturally sweet. The cheese had a caramel quality, like Norwegian Gjost.

The dessert was chocolate brownie with dried yogurt, green pea and mint sorbet, white chocolate. The peas add sweet starchiness to the dish, with the yogurt adding tang. It’s a more sophisticated dessert, not candy-sweet.

The post-dessert had madeleines presented with toffee made with Lefroy whiskey and unsweetened cocoa powder. The toffee was chewy and it’s a great dessert with coffee!

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