While the pandemic shows no sign of abating, Iceland’s food and beverage industry seems to be surging ahead on a combination of hope, optimism and high spirits despite the many challenges posed by COVID. In a year full of uncertainties, restaurants old and new showed us what resilience looks like. Take-away took on a whole new meaning with at-home meal kits being offered up by celebrated chefs, marked-down menus becoming commonplace and spirited underground deliveries brightened many evenings.
Our expert panel of gourmands were hand-picked for their dedication to food—these people eat out way more than one should and can sift the mojo from the mayo with ease. While it has been a difficult year, the winners rose to the challenge, and how! Adversity does bring out the best in some and this year we are delighted to shine light on our out-of-town superstars who often eclipse their Reykjavík counterparts by miles. So sit tight, and let us help you navigate these gastronomic waters, be it the hottest burger in town or the most memorable dining experience of your life.
“I’m always there,” confesses one of our panellists. And that isn’t surprising given that this Sichuanese restaurant packs a wallop of flavour, heat and textural delight in each of their selections. A fine Fine hack shares another, is to get the Black Soybean Pork to dunk into the Oil Spill Noodles—slinky hand cut noodles and a classic oil dressing—a satisfying vegan dish on its own, takes a few notches up if you are a meat eater. Other panel favourites include a superb cumin lamb, pepper beef and their hand pleated dumplings. During the pandemic, the restaurant stepped up to offer weekly specials at a hard to beat price, and they continue to do so with their lunch offers. Most dishes are vegan and lactose free (just ask), making this little gem accessible to everyone.
There isn’t a better fish fragrant eggplant in town and the Mapo Tofu sans meat is what tofu aspires to be. These dishes at Fönix always arrive at your table scaldingly hot, the eggplants fried to silky perfection, the tofu enticingly jiggly. These delights also happen to be vegan! Family-run Fönix has something for everyone. The lunch buffet is also a notch above similar fare. If your idea of Chinese food is the pallid fare at Ricki Chan, boy are you in for a ride at Fönix.
Helluhraun 22, Hafnarfjörður
At a time when Fine decided to close their Rauðarárstígur location briefly at the peak of the pandemic, they didn’t leave their customers wanting. Instead they opened a take-away only outpost in Hafnarfjörður with a dedicated menu. The ease of ordering, fair pricing and selection available without sacrificing any of the flavours we have come to associate with Fine, makes this one of our favourites. While the many dumplings are always a treat, we recommend the famed Hong shao rou pork, a festive dish made accessible.
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