From Iceland — Við Tjörnina

Við Tjörnina

Published August 26, 2006

Við Tjörnina

As soon as you enter you know this is no ordinary establishment. For one thing, it looks like a fancy version of the stereotypical Icelandic grandma’s house. The furniture and the décor are all more reminiscent of a well-to-do mid-fifties household than a restaurant, but it’s the architecture that really highlights this unique theme. It really did use to be a well-to-do household and rather than totally remodelling and knocking down the walls the owners kept it more or less intact. The result is a uniquely homey feel and a mix of privacy and intimacy; there are only a couple of tables per room in just a few rooms.
On the subject of the actual food and service, it’s equally hard to comment without having it sound like a sales pitch: they are just that good.
After we were seated and provided with bread that seemed to be right out of the oven, we ordered a starter of seafood soup and smoked guillemot, which is a bird native to Iceland, just as practically all the other items on the menu seemed to be. Suffice to say both were brilliant; I actually slurped the remains of the soup up from the bowl when no one was looking. Just as we were finishing up, the head chef came out with a mischievous grin and two plates, each holding a divine portion of what appeared to be garlic-sautéed lobster and scallop. It went perfectly with the white wine that the friendly and helpful waiter recommended.
We were already sold on this being one of the best meals of our lives when the main courses arrived – a honey-roasted spotted catfish in red wine sauce and another kind of catfish sautéed in butter. Both were beyond words, cooked to perfection and seasoned by the Gods. The red wine sauce may have been a tad thin for my tastes, but that’s so petty it’s a bit like saying Gandhi is your hero but you don’t like the bald look – a minor detail.
Lastly, the dessert didn’t let the rest of the meal down. I ordered the skyr, and much to my delight it was served exactly the way my grandmother in Skagafjörður used to present it for special occasions.

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