Walking over to Steikhúsið, located at the ever-popular restaurant hub around the whale watching tours on the west side of Reykjavík, I bet my wife that the restaurant’s interior would be heavy on greys and dark browns, with an open kitchen, medium lighting, leather, groaningly rugged with a bull’s head hanging on the wall. She didn’t take the bet but I did a little victory lap when we got there, anyway.
But for a place that pummels its guests with ruggedness (their sign is a blacksmith’s hammer!), it does offer some fairly unorthodox choices, like seafood and watermelon skewer with salsa and tartar sauce; miso-marinated fish with bok choy and Jerusalem artichoke gratin; and spring rolls with smoked guillemot, dates, Japanese mayo and bell pepper jam. Somehow I have a hard time imagining that people visiting the ex-machine shop steakhouse decked out like a place George W. would be proud to call his living room are going there for guillemot and miso fish.
Who am I kidding, that guillemot spring roll (1,820 ISK) looked just crazy enough to work. Was it? Kind of. The spring roll was surprisingly well balanced. It was dense and rich and it sort of worked in an old school French way, but I can’t say there would be much to pull me back aside from the freak factor.
My wife ordered the skewered chicken tenders with blue cheese sauce and lightly pickled cucumbers (1,850 ISK). The bread crust was well seasoned and the tenders were tender. The plating of chicken and spring rolls didn’t excite the eye and plating on all of their courses is bare-boned to the extreme and could use some rethinking.
I ordered the fillet of lamb (4,750 ISK) with a side of breaded and deep-fried sweet potatoes (450 ISK). I had hoped for sweet potato fries, but these worked in a pinch. The lamb was well cooked and nicely seasoned but not all that remarkable otherwise. I might be getting a little spoiled for lamb.
My wife had the 28-day dry-aged Ribeye (4,300 ISK) with a side of garlic mushrooms (450 ISK) and a baked potato (450 ISK). Although I appreciate that dry aging has taken off the way it has, I remain sceptical that Icelandic beef deserves the red carpet treatment. The problem in this case had more to do with the cooking. I appreciate that our excellent waiter asked us how we wanted our meat (by no means a given in Iceland—although of course it should be), but our medium rare ribeye was delivered a solid rare.
The number one priority for a steakhouse should be that they consistently produce perfectly cooked steaks to order. This was rare and going on blue rare in the thicker end. However, I like my meat rare and this ended up dragging my wife over to the vampire side, which goes some way towards mitigating the mistake. The baked potato was also excellent—better than the usual baked potatoes you get in Iceland. Another point in their favour.
The wine list came in the form of a black Kindle Touch, which I thought was a nice touch. We ordered the 2009 Las Moras black label cabernet, an Argentinean wine with a strong hint of blackberries like the name implies, to go with the steaks.
Dessert was a banana sundae with hazelnuts (1,490 ISK). The dessert menu was definitely in tune with the American steakhouse image—all very safe stuff.
Steikhúsið seem to be doing well on the hangover burger front. I have heard of some who have slugged themselves from the east side of town way past an obvious choice like Roadhouse to try Steikhúsið’s 180g cheese-filled hamburger with bacon, Portobello, brie, caramelized onions and chipotle sauce on a brioche bun. That’s not something I’d do to my body except out-of-my-mind hung-over, but I’m glad to see that the burger has found its fan base.
Otherwise Steikhúsið seems to be going for the jugular of places like Argentína steikhús and Grillmarkaðurinn. Those ambitions can be seen in the huge wine list, the month of dry aging and Mibrasa charcoal oven. But the stakes have been raised and although Steikhúsið is a sound and ambitious choice, it still has some ways to go before overtaking Grillmarkaðurinn.
P.S. Menu needs a spell-check. Online menu is unreadable.
Tryggvagata 4-6, 101 Reykjavík
What we think: Ambitious new steakhouse that falls short of the top rung
Flavour: American steakhouse + some curious Asian fusion, meaty
Ambiance: For romance and business
Service: Old school service to the hilt, antiquated gender roles and all, top marks!
Price for 2 (with drinks): 22–26,000 ISK