Published September 7, 2017
There has historically been a real lack of culinary institutions in Iceland representing the northern parts of Africa and the Middle East. Save for a few fast food places—those who’ve firmly established themselves as among the best, of course—there are very few restaurants that have served up the spices found along the southern coastline of the Mediterranean; the freshness of mint, the deepness of harissa or the tanginess of—yes—sumac.
Something was missing
Sumac Grill is named after the tangy, vibrant and colourful condiment. Chef and owner, Þráinn Freyr Vigfússon, wanted to introduce new flavours to the people and visitors of Reykjavík, although he notes that he wanted to add his own vision—a Scandinavian twist that he deems underrated.
“I can’t really say that I am opening up a Lebanese restaurant per se, or a Moroccan one,” he explains. “But these are flavours that I have grown to love, and I felt they were missing from the Icelandic culinary scene. That was the basic idea, to serve up straightforward dishes that pack a lot of flavour by using fresh ingredients and delicious spices that I know people love, even though they have not been too prominent in Reykjavík up to this point.”
A marriage of flavours
Middle-eastern flavours are not entirely unknown in Iceland. They are even quite popular in many households and the demand for a decent hummus is constantly rising. Þráinn, and his head chef Hafsteinn Ólafsson, went even further by adding some familiar friends to the mix.
“I felt that certain flavours which we are quite accustomed to in the North-Atlantic could actually marry very well with Mediterranean flavours,” he says. “Dill, chives and parsley all work fantastically well.”
“Most of the items on the menu are conceived as dishes for sharing. “We want people to have a nice and relaxing time, have some drinks and try different things. Sumac Grill should be perfect for people to gather after work or on weekends for a drink and have a snack or a meal,” says Þráinn. He emphasises that sharing is caring, especially with fantastic dishes like hummus and flatbread, falafel, or harissa-marinated chicken wings.
The interior of the restaurant boasts an eloquent modernist design, with a mix of dark and golden colours, stylish benches and chairs, and a bar that has a splendid view of an open kitchen where the whole cooking process is on display. The aim, according to Þráinn, is to “bring a bit of Beirut to Reykjavík, a truly rich culinary heritage, while still offering the freshest local ingredients in a slightly different setting.”
Visit Sumac Grill at Laugavegur 28, and online.