From Iceland — Off To See The Wizard

Off To See The Wizard

Published November 18, 2011

Off To See The Wizard
Ragnar Egilsson

Harry’s has been the topic of much discussion in the Icelandic media lately. At the time of writing, Harry’s is rated the third best restaurant in Iceland on TripAdvisor with a rating of 4.5 out of 5. Although it should be noted that, for some strange reason, almost every restaurant in Iceland averages a rating of 4.5 (as do most of the places in Manila, incidentally). And for the occasional negative comment, Harry himself has gracefully decided to reply and correct those erroneous opinions. What the heck is this place and where did it come from?
To the best of my knowledge, there is no exclusively Filipino place in Reykjavík and I’ve just realised that I need one.
The Philippines have a ridiculously complex cultural heritage, it’s a nation obscured by a forest of invading flags left behind by an international conga line of starving conquistadors that make Sicily look chaste as Agnes of Rome. As a result, Filipino people like mixing sweet and savoury along with basically anything they can get their hands on. This can result in some surprising combinations like ginger+hard-boiled eggs+safflower, macaroni+cabbage+fish sauce and milkfish+soy sauce+raisins. Pure Frankenfood and often pure genius.
So I grabbed wifey and the parents and headed down with a big stupid smile on my face. 
First impression: the place isn’t much to look at, but so what—I went hoping for a simple, hole-in-the-wall Filipino place with some character. Nothing fancy, just a solid emphasis on regional ingredients and techniques (think: Noodle Station).
The sign at Harry’s beckons you in, promising fish & chips, Guinness, Belgian waffles and burgers. Strange. Somehow they have stumbled on the only four things not used in Filipino food.
This is a tiny family business. The lady is by herself, holding down the kitchen fort with the man, presumably Harry, pulling the rest of the strings like the Wizard of Oz. Half of the ten tables in use and they already seem in over their heads. Yet, Harry manages to maintain a surprisingly high level of service. They seem like nice people. The interior is a little tacky, not enough to be charming, nor enough to be offensive. Regrettably, that’s about all the positive comments I can muster.
First of all, there is nothing I would call Filipino about this. The group had eaten at Filipino places, wifey had eaten Filipino home cooking through friends. This was bog standard pan-Asian take-out food served with plenty of fat, salt, oyster sauce and fries on the side. The only plus side being that it was cooked to order. The wife had salty pork in oyster sauce.  Large portion but didn’t taste of much. Parents had roast pork with crackling (!?) which was dry and dull. I ordered a salad (it contained olives and hard-boiled eggs, which are somewhat Filipino ingredients). Nothing special. Some calamari on the side that weren’t too chewy.  Finished with a stale waffle for mom because it was her birthday (really).
I take no joy in rating places like Harry’s. I’m guessing the folks aren’t professional chefs. They aren’t responsible for their clients rating it the third best in Iceland. But here we find ourselves and I owe it to the men and women that have devoted their lives to cooking good food, who were rated below Harry’s, to give an honest appraisal.
I wouldn’t eat at Harry’s again and I wouldn’t recommend it to the people I know. Harry’s might do well as a regular lunch joint—I might have jumped in there for a bite during my lunch break and felt differently—but with a liquor license and a focus on dinner service…I’m not seeing that at all.
Overall, the food reminded me of the Chinese place on the corner of my street in Brooklyn. That place had bulletproof glass, offered a free soda with each purchase and all the fish in the aquarium were dead.

Rauðarárstígur 33
105 Reykjavík
(+354) 558 0230
What We Think: Good-size portions if you don’t mind the food. Decidedly not the third best place in Reykjavík. Long wait on busy nights. Wouldn’t repeat it.
Flavour: Low-end take-away food. Overcooked and drenched in brine like a shipwrecked sailor.
Ambiance: Friendly. Nautical.
Service: Impressively attentive considering it’s only the one guy
Rating: 1.5/5

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