Published February 21, 2017
Depending who you listen to, the New Nordic Cuisine culinary movement might be alive, dead, or both—but one thing’s for sure, it’s now inextricably woven into the restaurant culture of the Nordic region. The food on offer is characterised by a mix of traditional recipes with a contemporary flourish: expect smoky flavours, high-quality ingredients, plentiful shellfish, astringent wild berries, foraged weeds, rich dairy products, minimalistic design and, by the end of your meal, a drained wallet. So gird both your stomach and your bank account, and try this selection of dishes that we feel best represents New Nordic Cuisine right here in Iceland.
Plokkfiskur at Messinn
This could be the newest update of the dish that best represents the Nordic region. While not New Nordic in the strictest sense, Messinn does justice to the amazing ingredients that can be sourced within and without Iceland’s shores. Not only that, but they spark up local peasant dishes—something you don’t see much of in contemporary Icelandic dining. Their variation of the classic Icelandic fish stew (plokkfiskur) should rattle only the most conservative of purists. The basic cod-and-potatoes in bechamel is given a facelift with white wine, celery and lime, giving the creamy, almost puréed texture a much-needed bounce of acidity and sweetness. A big hit with local foodies.
Double-smoked lamb with buttermilk and nutmeg at Matur og Drykkur
The crate-digging food geeks at Matur og Drykkur have dug up some weird oldies (like their famous cod head sharing plate), but they are just as likely to impress with elegant representations of holiday staples like salted smoked lamb. Traditionally served as a single-smoked cold cut with the bechamel sauce our grandparents loved so dearly, here it has been both doubled down and lightened up. Much appreciated.
Shrimp pyramid at Jómfrúin
We’ve recommended it before and we’ll recommend it again, because here at the Grapevine we like our bread the way we like our parliament: with a mountain of pink, beady-eyed bottom-feeders. The shrimps are served on a slick of mayo, ever-popular with elderly conservatives. In all seriousness though, Jómfrúin is lit.
Almost anything at Dill
Dill represents the New Nordic style with more integrity and focus than anyone else in Iceland, although new, highly competitive restaurants are springing up every day. Founder Gunnar Karl has moved on to helm seasonal Nordic joint Agern in New York, leaving Dill in the capable hands of new head chef Ragnar Eiríksson. The menu selection is constantly changing and developing, in the spirit of innovation and seasonal cooking, so it’s hard to nail down anything specific, but a recent standout dish was the complex dried mussel chip. Also notable is Dill’s many strange variations on the humble carrot (why is the carrot humble? We don’t know. Maybe it’s going around acting like it don’t know nobody).
Very Honorable Mention:
Seaweed with buttermilk and capelin roe at Slippurinn
This place isn’t in Reykjavík, but it’s so good we had to mention it. Expect only the finest seafood fare at this excellent Vestmannaeyjar joint, which was founded by the same people who gave us Matur og Drykkur. Their lemon sole with foraged herbs is also to die for.
For more of our ‘Best Of’ guides, please visit grapevine.is/bestof.