From Iceland — A Surprising Surprise

A Surprising Surprise

Published July 20, 2010

A Surprising Surprise

When we last reviewed Rauðará, way back in 2008, we remarked that the “most positive part of the Rauðará experience is not really the food itself, but the positively comfortable settings it is served in.”  Not much has changed.
The mood at Rauðará is really, really nice. It’s the kind of place you take a lover or business associate to close a deal. Moodily lit, the restaurant is located inside an old brewery where they used to make beer during The Great Icelandic Beer Prohibition of the 20th century.
Once sat in this comfortable environment, we decided to opt for the six-course ‘Chef’s Surprise’, wherein the chef is meant to “surprise you with his six course menu, made from the freshest ingredients available.” The course is only available for the whole table, and is priced at 9.900 ISK per person. We furthermore chose to let the sommelier select wines to accompany the meal for an additional fee of 6.500 ISK/person.
The feast started off with a serving of grilled salted cod (baccalao) with a side of tomato and date paste. This competent, if unremarkable, dish was a fine start to our meal. The grilled cod was tender and juicy, and the tomato paste was a conventionally tasty accompaniment. With this, we enjoyed a nice glass of spicy French white wine courtesy of the sommelier, which accompanied the dish quite well.
Next up was a lobster soup with langoustine, accompanied by another glass of white wine. The soup was a tasty broth that was fortunately free of the creamy wheat trappings of many Icelandic lobster soups. We were rather pleased, but the small, overcooked pieces of langoustine within it put somewhat of a damper on the experience.
Our third course was a clear winner in my book. Carpaccio is always a fine dish, but the accompanying sugar coated nuts, rucola and truffle mayonnaise really set it beyond and made it special. I could well imagine venturing to Rauðará just to enjoy their beef carpaccio. For sure. The accompanying glass of red was nice enough.
The fourth course of was notable by its absence. We did not get it, and neither did we get the fourth glass of wine to go along with it (I am only guessing it was the fourth course we didn’t get. It might have been the second or third one for all I know).
Selling a six-course menu that consists of five courses is pretty odd, we reckon. Take that as you will.
After a tasty dish of absolutely nothing, we were presented with the evening’s main course, “grilled beef tenderloin with red wine glazed pearl onions, fondant potato and wild mushroom sauce.” The beef was cooked to perfection, really: tender, moist, succulent and bloody, with the sides adding a heavy undertone to the meal. The serving was large too, so large in fact that we had problems finishing it. Alongside the main course, the sommelier served a large glass of Argentinian Intis Malbec, which was a nice enough match, but possibly odd as part of a “sommelier selects” experience.  
Lastly, we received a double dessert of vanilla pannacotta with fresh berries and biscotti, along with homemade ice cream. Both were really good, although it seemed odd that they would serve us two dessert dishes. Perhaps one of them was the mysteriously absent sixth course?
We left the place with mixed feelings.

  • Flavour: ‘Classic Restaurant.’ In a good way
  • Rauðará Rauðarárstígur 37
  • What we think: Competent but unremarkable
  • Ambiance: Moody, candle-lit, nice, calming
  • Service: Friendly and accommodating
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