From Iceland — Galbí


Published May 19, 2006


When you arrive at the otherwise fine Korean steakhouse called Galbí, the décor and atmosphere seems somehow less exotic than you expected, which is to say the décor isn’t great. In any case, once you have been seated and have picked out your drinks and food, a man arrives and sets your table on fire. Gas valves and removable metal discs in the centre of each table turn them into stylish barbecues at the drop of a hat. Yes, you cook your own food.
The waiter mentioned that some people balk at the idea of cooking their own food when they first arrive, but I can attest to the fact that it only takes a couple of minutes of the activity before it becomes second nature. And fun, too, it not only gives you full control over your dish, but eating turns into even more of a social activity than it usually is. This is a novelty one can easily picture Icelanders going for.
The food itself was very good: my friend had marinated beef while I went with fish with mint and almonds. You get your food in smallish chunks and the basic instructions are to give each side about thirty seconds of cooking before putting it on a leaf of iceberg and adding a few oddly named Korean spices and sauces. Then you roll it up and eat it; that is, if you want to do it the traditional Korean way. Personally, I couldn’t give a fig what the traditional Korean way is – I found it bothersome and the food was great the way it was before it got turned into a lettuce burrito. After about five minutes of messing around, we both hit upon the perfect combination of Korean whatchamacallits and ate the rest of the meal with relish, literally. The sauces and spices were more or less brilliant, but we soon developed a loathing for some odd condiment called ‘kimchi’, apparently an essential element of the dish but definitely not for everyone’s palate.
For dessert we had an absolutely sublime home-made ice cream. We also tried a very nice Oreo cheesecake, though it was perhaps a bit on the rich side and definitely paled in comparison to the frozen treat that came before it. All in all: Good marks on the food, top marks on the friendly and attentive service (though there weren’t too many other guests present) but the ambiance could use some work.

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