Culture
Food
A Song Of The Sea: Norð Austur Takes Sushi In Iceland To The Next Level

A Song Of The Sea: Norð Austur Takes Sushi In Iceland To The Next Level

Photos by
Timothée Lambrecq

Published June 23, 2018

We cruise over the mountain pass into Seyðisfjörður—population 700—on a warm Sunday in May. The town in abuzz with activity—a Japanese artist is performing in the street, there’s an exhibition opening at Heima. Later, we hear, two jazz musicians will interpret Bach in the town church.

But we move on quickly, because today we’re not here for the culture. We’re here to dine at Norð Austur, the summer season sushi restaurant that has Icelandic foodies aflutter. The word is that Norð Austur makes the best sushi in Iceland, combining expertise, authenticity and experimentation using fresh fish pulled straight from the eastern fjords.

Show stopping starters

The restaurant is on the town’s main street. The dining rooms are atmospheric, with olive green walls, framed paper cranes, organic jellyfish-style lampshades, and grey curtains framing the ocean view. Behind the bar, the chefs are preparing and plating orders. The restaurant is busy—word has clearly gotten around that Norð Austur is open again.

“Generous slices of scored pink salmon lie sizzling over a pile of hot rocks… it’s good enough to silence the table.”

The menu consists of a la carte dishes and several tasting menus, from a “Chef’s Choice” (4,500 ISK) to an eight-course “Omakase” menu (7,500 ISK). We opt for the house tasting menu (5,900 ISK), which includes several starters, served as sharing plates.

It’s immediately obvious that this is a no-holds-barred tasting menu. Five immaculately presented dishes roll out of the kitchen in quick succession: first, a remixed version of Icelandic fiskibollur, followed by a vivid cod ceviche with the acidic flavour balanced by sprigs of mint and dill. The salmon tartare is brought to life by tangy sundried tomatoes, and the haddock is served in a subtle sesame broth, peppered with purple chive blossoms.

Finally comes the salmon belly, with generous slices of scored pink salmon lain sizzling over a pile of hot rocks. It’s good enough to silence the table, and we make sure that not a heavenly crumb remains.

A bigger boat

After these memorable opening courses, the founding chef Jonathan comes over to say ‘hi.’ He’s been travelling and cooking outside of Iceland, but he’s excited to be back, and is pleased by our gleeful reaction to the salmon. “We get the fish from Reyðarfjörður, sometimes within four hours,” he says. “Then the local trawler brings us bleikja, and all kinds of things. We were recently given an 80 kilo porbeagle shark that got trapped in the net. I didn’t know what to do with it, but Hideo [another chef] is making all these great dishes.”

“Each dish feels carefully crafted—it’s ambitious locally-sourced sushi taken to a fine-dining level.”

The shark, when it comes, is excellent: a bowl of tender, meaty nuggets with a light soy dressing and fresh radish and wakame garnish, a million miles from the familiar fermented hákarl. The soy-glazed Arctic char is smokey and cooked to perfection, with saffron and seaweed flavours; the vegan tempura is light, crisp, and piping hot. Each dish feels carefully crafted—it’s ambitious locally-sourced sushi taken to a fine-dining level.

The fresh and understated desserts of rhubarb sorbet and coconut chia pudding are a perfect end to a wonderful meal. We couldn’t recommend Norð Austur more—catch it while you can, or you’ll have to wait until next summer for another chance.


Culture
Food
Great Moments In Icelandic Cuisine: The Potato

Great Moments In Icelandic Cuisine: The Potato

by

I could not have lived in Iceland 250 years ago. Why, you may ask? Because the potato had not yet

Culture
Food
The Secret Salad Society: A Memorable Dinner At Geiri Smart

The Secret Salad Society: A Memorable Dinner At Geiri Smart

by

Hotel restaurants have a difficult reputation to distance themselves from—that of being uninspired, tourist-oriented and generally lacklustre. Breaking the spell

Culture
Food
The Street Food Olympics: A Grapevine Guide To Grandi Mathöll

The Street Food Olympics: A Grapevine Guide To Grandi Mathöll

by , and

Reykjavík food halls are, as it turns out, just like London buses: you wait around for one, and then two

Culture
Food
Ólafur Elíasson & Victoria Elíasdóttir Bring SOE Kitchen Project To Reykjavík

Ólafur Elíasson & Victoria Elíasdóttir Bring SOE Kitchen Project To Reykjavík

by

Ólafur Elíasson’s famous SOE Kitchen is making its way to Iceland as a 3 month pop-up project. Known for its

Culture
Food
Let’s Say Cheers For Skál! A Gourmet Feast At Hlemmur Mathöll

Let’s Say Cheers For Skál! A Gourmet Feast At Hlemmur Mathöll

by

There are some privileges in writing about food. One of them is getting assignments that you cannot wait to complete,

Culture
Food
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? Óx Offers A Memorable Chef’s Table Experience

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? Óx Offers A Memorable Chef’s Table Experience

by

In a city like Reykjavík where it is now the norm for new restaurants to mushroom on almost every street

Show Me More!