The first Bulgarian restaurant in town, fast food joint Balkanika, opened just over a month ago to the joy of the 150 or so Bulgarians living in Reykjavík.
After 2 years away from my previous country of residence, Montenegro, and with golden memories of cevapi booths in Sarajevo and bureks from the pekaras of Dubrovnik, I figured Bulgaria was close enough on the culinary map and eagerly headed to Vítastigur.
It is all very straight-forward in Balkanika: tidy and brand new, with a couple of daily specials for around 1000 ISK on the black board, a set menu including portions for vegetarians and children and a take-away service.
I tried the classic Balkan shopska salad (510 ISK), usually an appetizer or side dish, but large enough on its own to serve as a light lunch for those people who, like me, have the appetite of a bird. There is true magic to the combination of diced tomato, cucumber, onion and pepper covered with sirene, brine cheese similar to feta. It makes for a brilliant flavour and never fails. “Just rakija missing now” smiled owner Stefán Birgir Guðfinnsson, whose Bulgarian wife Rositsa takes care of the cooking at Balkanika.
My date chose the kebabcheta, a Bulgarian minced pork, and well, phallic shaped offering from the grill, served with fries and tomato salad (1090 ISK). The food was fast, cheap and satisfyingly meaty.
To be honest the Balkan kitchen, with its basic flavour palette, isn’t any culinary rollercoaster, especially the fast food variety, and neither is Balkanika. But it is an authentic and cheap alternative to the holy trinity of quick pizza, burger and pylsa. Not a bad thing in this eating-out obsessed town.
- What we think: A cheap, good alternative to the usual pizza, burger and pylsa.