Published March 23, 2012
It’s worth mentioning that all reviews are done in context. A place like Nam will be measured against other ambitious fast food places and a beautifully designed hotel restaurant with a very promising menu will be reviewed against its peers. What the restaurant aspires to be and how it presents itself is always going to be key in how we perceive it.
I usually avoid peak hours, unless it’s the kind of place that presents itself as a lounge or prides itself on a lively atmosphere. I also don’t want to be taking a table away from a paying costumer or bothering the staff during peak hours. So I visited Satt late on a Wednesday evening. It probably wasn’t a great idea that time around because I could sense that the kitchen wasn’t under the usual control and I felt that Satt deserved a second chance.
When you walk in toward the main dining area, you are greeted by large panels with nature prints and some tidy copywriting on a glass window (this bit of text highlighting their local and all-natural approach is repeated on the napkins). Although I can go the rest of my life before hearing food called “honest” again.
The main dining area is modern, but has a distinct ‘70s Scandinavian vibe to it: a palette of orange and green speckling pine pallet stacks, coarse spotted fabric on the chairs. It is tidy but with enough reminders of Amma’s living room to keep it from being too dry.
The name itself, “Satt” (neutral–singular–nominative case), can mean either “true” or “sated” in Icelandic and it fits the place perfectly. It’s short and direct, plain and local, but carefully considered.
The Satt bar offers some interesting choices of charcuterie and assorted nibbles, such as Danish-style pork rinds, orange Florentines and seasonal veggies with horseradish dip in a comfortable seating area by the gas fireplace that divides the space from the lobby. However, we didn’t get a chance to sample those delights and instead plunged straight into the dinner menu.
On our first outing to Satt I tried the Angelica gravlax with smoked salmon mousse and pickled onions (1.950 ISK). The Icelandic gravlax really is something I can’t say enough good things about it, and this was no exception, but I prefer it cut in thin Carpaccio-slices rather than the cubes I was presented with. I can’t comment on the salmon mousse as I have a great deal of personal prejudice against it after being forced to go through buckets of it at confirmation parties when I was young.
Satt offers its own version of the classic Icelandic lamb soup (or “lamb stew”…the jury is still out) on their starter menu. They substitute the usual oats or rice with barley, use fresher vegetables and a finer cut. And yet I found myself missing the classic, denser lamb stew. But the lightness was probably done with the intention of keeping it in with starters.
After seeing an image of their burger on the website I felt I had to try it. A 5.5 oz burger (150 grams) on a brioche bun with caramelized onions and at 1.850 ISK, it is pretty reasonable all things considered. On my first visit it was a let-down, but on the second, weekend visit, it worked wonderfully: a juicy burger, neither too densely packed nor too finely minced. But the bread is too dry and not really the kind of brioche I’m used to.
The Arctic char with cucumbers and roasted almonds (3.090 ISK) was up next. I would definitely recommend that all visitors try a well-cooked Arctic char caught in Icelandic waters at least once—and this one was worth it (although I can’t say it blew me away either).
To finish it off the wife picked the fruit salad with hibiscus tea (1.280 ISK). We were expecting a clever arrangement around an eggcup with some kind of clever Jamaican concoction, but she was served a simple bowl of fruit with some faintly hibiscus-flavoured water splashed on top.
I had the selection of Icelandic cheeses with a spiced apricot-carrot jam (1.280 ISK). Although the Icelandic cheese culture is improving rapidly, I don’t think we’re quite at the point where we can showcase it. Nice blue cheese though and the jam was a great side.
What We Think: With only one other restaurant within easy walking distance, it’s fortunate for the guests at Hotel Natura that Satt is working out. A diverse selection of dishes to suit most tastes. We recommend their fish options or lighter courses.
Flavour: Local ingredients, French technique, cured, broiled, earthy
Ambiance: Woodsy and cosy in that but-let’s-not-go-nuts Norwegian-style.
Service: Very Good
Price: (2 people): 14-16.000 ISK (with wine)