Published May 20, 2015
- What we think
- Flavourful, savoury, fresh.
- New Scandinavian-French take on good produce.
- Domestic, kind of cosy.
- Relaxed, homely.
- Price for 2 (no drinks)
- 10-14,000 ISK
It is considered fairly common knowledge amongst locals in downtown Reykjavík that the quintessential restaurant for enjoying some of the best fish courses ever prepared in this country was in the cellar of Ostabúðin, a gourmet shop for cheeses and dry meats. During the working week a mysterious genius went to work behind the curtains to prepare a fish course of the day and more—for surprisingly low prices. It was the best deal in town. For 12 years!
As the year 2014 came to a close that mysterious genius decided that it was finally time to go into business on his own. Along with his wife, Ragnheiður Helena Eðvarðsdóttir, chef Jóhann Helgi Jóhannesson opened up a new restaurant, Restó, in the bodily remains of an old steakhouse in the vicinity of central bus station Hlemmur—a part of central Reykjavík that looks as if it is just about to flourish. Restó could be a part of that success story, as it certainly has the food to claim the part.
Restó offers both lunch and dinner. The former has already garnered attention among foodies in Reykjavík, which comes as no surprise at all. And the prices are ridiculous, with the fish course at 1,700 ISK and the soup at 750 ISK.
My companion and I, however, decided to take full advantage of the dinner menu, both ordering a three-course spread. My companion started off with citrus marinated raw fish with a salad of cucumbers and sautéed seaweed (1,900 ISK). The “fish” in this case, ling, was light, flaky and fresh—perfectly cooked in the citrus juices as a form of ceviche. The cucumber salad was complementary to the fish, a nice palate cleanser contrasting the citrus. The seaweed added crunch, saltiness and nice texture. All in all, it was a very impressive starter. I chose the Fish Soup à la Restó (1,800 ISK) with chili and cognac. There was certainly plenty of fish in the soup, cod and salmon in this case, and it was creamy and flavourful, although I was expecting more heat with “chili” in the dish’s name. A fine soup, not spectacular.
For a main course, my companion, a meat lover, ordered the only mammal on the menu, a garlic and thyme-marinated fillet of lamb with red wine sauce (4,800 ISK). It was served with potatoes fried in butter, and root vegetables, carrots and celeriac. The fillet was perfectly cooked, showing off a lovely maillard-effect on the outside and a lovely medium-rare pink on the inside. The sauce was savoury and of a nice consistency. As far as lamb goes, which is—honestly—not the most original dish in Iceland, this was spot on.
I went for the chef’s speciality—a sautéed ling with ginger, chili and wild mushroom sauce (3,100 ISK). I must admit, the sound of ginger and chill mixed together with anything other than garlic and soy seamed a bit odd. I was, however, confident that the chef knew what he was doing, and there was not a hint of regret for doing so. To me, this was the standout dish of the night. The fish was beautifully prepared—butter-fried with a slight wheat crust to golden brown perfection, yet flaky on the inside, as it should be. The accompaniments were all spot on—baked savoury root vegetables, a mix of sweet potato/potato mash and a lovely wild mushroom sauce that brought every element together. This dish is recommended to all.
For dessert, my companion had a panna cotta with cherry sauce (1,100 ISK), while I chose figs in balsamic syrup with vanilla cream cheese (1,300 ISK). Both of our desserts were very delicious, although the cream a touch heavy, especially with the figs. The cream cheese was undoubtedly mixed with Icelandic skyr, which was the culprit, for sure.
Make no mistake, my companion and I had a far beyond average meal. The service was good and the wine list is adequate. The standouts, however, are the seafood dishes. This guy in the kitchen simply has no match in his area of expertise. For one of the best seafood experiences in the country, Restó is the place.