Published August 2, 2011

Ragnar Egilsson

1919 Restaurant is on the first floor of the Radison Blu 1919 Hotel (luckily that wasn’t the first mouthful of the evening).
The restaurant looks elegant and minimal and the designers did a good job of marrying the slightly bland lounge chic style of the pre-recession hotel build-up with the history of this wonderful building in downtown Reykjavík—having already made the wise decision of removing the crest of Eimskipafélag Íslands (a pre-Nazi swastika), from the gable of the house in favour a ‘1919’ sign indicating the year that it was built.
My dining partner and I arrived early for dinner service and therefore had the dining area almost entirely to ourselves. So while it’s true that the servers had little else to busy themselves with in terms of dining service, I must still commend them for absolutely top-notch service. We had two excellent servers and I swore I would remember the name of the main one, but the red wine that followed made short work of those vows (was it Raoul? Let’s go with Raoul…sorry other gentleman).
The menu was trimmed down to a perfect, unbloated page and a half. For starters I ordered the 1919 Hot pot (1190 ISK), while my dining partner ordered the garlic-fried langoustine with crispy dark bread and citrus sauce (2850 ISK). This was promising as I am a big fan of Japanese-style hot pots and liked that they didn’t try to pass the langoustine off as a lobster (which some places will do since the distinction isn’t really made in the Icelandic language).
I regret to say that the hot pot was a bit disappointing. The broth was uninteresting and there were only one or two pieces of each fish—salmon, what I’m guessing was common ling and an unidentified third—in it. I was hoping for something closer to proper seafood Yosenabe. A plate of identifiable seafood that you cook yourself in some kind of Icelandified dashi stock would have been more interesting.
The langoustine was subtle, but it does benefit from good fundamental cooking technique and not too much fussing with the flavouring. Excellent.
The salmon with lightly pickled leek and potato purée that my partner ordered as a main course didn’t work quite as well. The salmon had excellent texture and slid off the bone like a dull-eyed cabana boy on a lounge chair and while I appreciate letting the main ingredient do the heavy lifting, the salmon could have used more seasoning.
However, the slow cooked lamb shank with baked beetroot and an onion-potato purée was so perfectly cooked that I swore it sighed a “thank you” when I tucked into it (although that could just have been steam escaping). Any inclusion of baked/grilled/braised beetroot earns you immediate points in my book (it’s the three-point free throw for rustic basics) and I couldn’t have been happier.
For dessert, I avoided the omnipresent skyr dishes and opted for the caramel muffin (the special of the day) and he ordered the warm chocolate cake (1290 ISK each). The chocolate cake, which tasted a little like an upscale lava cake, was served with an inexplicable scoop of raspberry sherbet/sorbet/ice cream (as was my muffin). The caramel muffin was dense and topped with caramel sauce, but it was still just a muffin. No complaints, but nothing to call home about.
Overall, 1919 Restaurant does fine dining quite well. The lamb was brilliant, the langoustine was also very good and the chef has a very good handle on the cooking techniques. However, without wanting to encourage some Blumenthalian shenanigans, I feel they could go a little wilder with the seasoning and accompaniments as the hot pot and salmon, although far from bad, verged on the bland. 

Rating: 4
Address: Pósthússtræti 2, 101 Reykjavík

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