From Iceland — Eating Iceland

Eating Iceland

Published March 11, 2005

Eating Iceland

Banned in the USA
Eysteinsson, who began as a chef at the Hótel Holt, wisely keeps the place open seven days a week. The menu at this intimate, 44-seat eatery won’t break the bank. Starters, such as smoked puffin in mustard sauce, are 1590 ISK. The highest-priced main dish, stuffed butter-fried Turbot, is 2960 ISK.
The main draw in this service-friendly eatery is fin whale, either steak or sashimi. Reportedly 3 Frakkar serves an average of 14,000 whale dishes each year, mostly to American and German tourists. Whale, long an Icelandic mainstay, was banned from commercial hunting in 1986. Eysteinsson’s cache, tons of it, comes from the last batch of legal hunting, and has been vacuum-packed and frozen.
Clark Gable, Chaplin and Elvis
The walls, painted a mellow pink, give 3 Frakkar a friendly feeling. On each table, three fresh pink roses sprout from bud vases. A tape of Rondo ala Turk by Dave Brubeck purrs pleasantly near the small bar as owner Eysteinsson, casually dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, stops at the tables to chat. Maybe it’s the display of wacky porcelain mugs in view of a grinning Clark Gable, Elvis and Charlie Chaplin; maybe its the homey curtains on the windows – whatever, it feels chummy.
A Star Whale
We begin with a starter of black gull pate (svartfugl) arranged beside a compote of warmed baby pearl onions, plump black raisins and bright, red currants in a port wine reduction. We sample more starters: smoked puffin carpaccio with mustard sauce, another Icelandic seabird topped with dots of fresh, green spring onions. Smoked puffin is an acquired taste reminding me of hangikjöt, the smoked lamb associated with the recent festival, Þorrablót. The star is the whale sashimi, red, raw, bloodless and julienned into a dumpling-like mound. The addition of Japanese dipping condiments of hot green wasabi, delicate slices of fresh ginger root and soy sauce kicks it up nicely.
Whale ’n’ Chips
The popular whale steak in pepper sauce is a must, if only to say you’ve tried it. When cooked, the whale becomes meat with a pungent, liver-like flavor. It arrives with wedges of French fried potatoes. We cannot shirk the responsibility of tasting the evening’s special dessert, crème brulée. It is brought to our table with a generous side of fresh, whipped cream. We tap the thin, crispy caramelized sugar topping; it crackles. Then, we dig our spoon in to the creamy custard. Pure decadence. A classic finish to any meal.
Þrír Frakkar, Baldursgata 14, Telephone 552-3939

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