Thanks for All the Fish, Iceland

Before I left for Iceland, I had heard differing opinions of the local cuisine. I knew it mostly consisted of fish, which is fine with me, but I had little idea of anything else. Thanks to Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain, I knew that I could also eat puffin.

smoked puffin iceland
Smoked puffin breast

The first dinner I had was at Þrír Frakkar, not far from the city pond. This restaurant was on every recommendation list I read before I left. Since I didn’t have a reservation on a Saturday night, I had to wait about 20 minutes for a table, but it was well worth it. The wait gave me a chance to take in the decor, which included plenty of fish mounted on the walls. There was also a small metal brontosaurus by one window — I couldn’t stop staring at it once I discovered it.

I ordered the smoked puffin breast appetizer and salmon with sesame roasted vegetables and yogurt sauce. I was not expecting the puffin to be so tender that I could cut it with a fork. The flavor resembled an extremely tender duck, but lighter. After so many years of eating sushi and sashimi, I’m not usually a fan of fully-cooked salmon, but Þrir Frakkar managed to turn this grilled salmon steak into the best I’ve ever had. 

monkfish iceland
Monkfish with the best salad in Iceland

Hostels have some pretty good deals

Thanks to my Hostelling International membership, I got a deal at Frú Berglaug. I received a free sample platter with my entree of monkfish with parma ham. The sample platter included minke whale, dried fish, fish stew, lobster, Icelandic haggis, and Icelandic rye bread. I had enough food to stuff two people. Fortunately, the restaurant is along a main street, and it’s great for people watching and eating slowly.

Sample platter filled with deliciousness
Sample platter filled with deliciousness

I had already tried the dried fish and found it rather tough and bland. The whale was surprising — it’s like a rare piece of lean steak (there was no fat on it at all). Unfortunately, I haven’t eaten a steak in years, and I was never really a fan of rare steak. I was told that if it’s cooked more, the flavor is ruined and the steak becomes tough.

The best lunch in Reykjavik

The best lunch I had in Iceland was at the Fish Market restaurant in downtown Reykjavik. This is a trendy, Japanese-inspired restaurant — they have a lot of sushi on the menu. I felt rather underdressed with all the businesspeople having lunch. The waiter was kind enough to talk me out of the crunchy duck salad–he said it’d be too much food to go along with my oven-baked blueling. He was right, there was plenty to eat on my plate, which included a black rice chili dressing to spread on the bread.

fish market iceland
Presentation is important at the Fish Market

On my final night in Reykjavik, I went in search of a recommended Thai restaurant with an Icelandic twist. As it was windy and raining, I lost track of direction and settled on Icelandic Fish & Chips Organic Bistro. This no-frills restaurant was excellent — the fish and chips were better than anything I ate in three months on London.

fish and chips iceland
Sorry London, this was the best fish and chips

Douglas Adams would enjoy a trip to Iceland for more than just all the fish; it’s also important to bring a towel.

3 thoughts on “Thanks for All the Fish, Iceland”

  1. Hi Matt,
    I have never been to Scandinavia … so this post was an interesting read.
    Never realized that Puffins made their way to the dinner table :)
    The Morkfish sounds interesting.

    Nice name for your blog :) The 3 best things in this world :)


    1. Iceland actually encourages people to eat puffin. If they didn’t, the puffin population would deplete the fish resources. Plus, it’s really tasty.

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