The statistical truth is that, in any capital city, for every three restaurants that show off with fancy décor, there is one that doesn’t need to. Vín og Skel, tucked away in a little alley just off of Laugavegur, looks like your grandmother’s basement (with paintings of ships and families that seem prehistoric), if your grandmother happens to be a hopeless romantic and serves the best seafood dishes you might ever have.
My friend and I started with the fantastic Langoustines (2,800 ISK), two large tails from the Norway Lobster, which can be found off the eastern coast of Iceland. The meat from langoustines, when cooked as correctly as Vín og Skel cooks it, is so soft that it must be scraped out with a specifically designed small fork. This starter came in a large bowl with a puddle of garlic butter and a side salad with tactfully zig-zagged balsamic vinaigrette.
The second course was a dish of escargot soaked in garlic parsley butter and an extremely imaginative dish of Minke Whale Carpaccio. The dark purple carpaccio came with another green salad in balsamic vinaigrette, with the minke whale thinly sliced and pounded. While I usually find whale meat to taste a little like cigarette ash, I was surprised by how much of the herby and flavourful carpaccio I had taken in before I remembered my supposed qualms with whale meat.
Our waitress emerged from the kitchen with our main course, the Seafood Feast (3,800 ISK), and she managed to drag most of the North Sea with her. The “feast” included sea crab, shrimp, Icelandic lobster tail (a smaller variety), clam, and baby octopus. The ocean assortment was prepared in a sweet and stew-like white wine sauce, one of the most flavoursome parts of the meal.
As if the meal hadn’t been its own kind of dessert, we soon received the house Crème brûlée (970 ISK). With it came a glass of Tia Maria Cognac, a dessert wine fashioned from Jamaican coffee beans (the coffee smell and taste faint, but fortunately detectable.) We also received double espresso with a bar of Sirius dark chocolate with a hint of orange. So we had the “Surprise Menu” at 5,600 ISK, and while the four courses may have amounted to an impossible quantity of food, it was entirely worth it. It was unbelievable. CF