From Iceland — Come For The Baba Ganush

Come For The Baba Ganush

Published September 27, 2013

Come For The Baba Ganush

On a Friday night in Reykjavík, you simply couldn’t ask for a more peaceful, intimate setting. I doubt you could fit more than twelve people in here, and yet nothing about it was cramped. With its dark wood panelling and orange-washed walls, the décor couldn’t be more at odds with itself, but it was warmer and far more inviting than some of the chic interiors of Reykjavík’s newest restaurants.
We were greeted by a smiling waitress, who looked at me incredulously when I asked if she had a table for two—maybe because there were at least three empty ones right next to us. We picked our own seats and proceeded to browse the menu. Being a stranger to Balkan food, most of the dishes on the menu were unfamiliar to me, so we took the waitress’s recommendation and went for the mixed platter (10 small dishes). As an afterthought we threw in a mixed grill for an extra 3,990 ISK, mostly because it had “BONUS—TURKISH COFFEE AND BAKLAVA” written next to it, which, in the author’s humble opinion, is one of the greatest dessert combinations known to man.
First to arrive were the appetisers: hummus, tzaziki, red pepper paste and baba ganush served with piping hot pita bread. Their flavours were rather timid, but the baba ganush had a wonderfully fresh taste that was easily gulped down.
After what seemed like only a couple of bites, a flood of dishes began rolling in so fast that we suddenly found ourselves swamped with exotic-looking fare. Highlights included the paprika borek (a deep-fried dream stuffed with feta) and the lamb shish dripping with smoky juices. The sesame chicken strips had sounded terrific on the menu, but were not as crackingly fresh as I’d imagined. The curious “Cigarette Borek” turned out to be a deep-fried pastry roll stuffed with feta, an imaginative concept but too mild to be genuinely interesting. I preferred the cigar-like dolma: savoury rice stuffed in vine leaves and dipped in yoghurt sauce. That was definitely the most exotic dish of the evening and it was surprisingly yummy.
We lingered over the remains of our meal for what seemed like a long time before the baklava was finally brought to us. Our waitress’s former enthusiasm seemed to have died suddenly over the course of the evening. We kept on chatting and picked at our sticky baklava (which was little too compact and dry), all the while waiting for our Turkish coffee. After a while, I got the uneasy feeling that we had overstayed our welcome, so I casually asked our waitress about the coffee. We received a tired smile with the explanation that this was indeed normally included but she had decided not to offer it to us as the hour had grown late.
While there’s nothing pyrotechnical about this fare, it’s certainly not without character and there’s an authentic cosiness to it that’s hard to find elsewhere. I’m definitely coming back for more baba ganush.
But I still feel ripped off by the lack of coffee.

What We Think: Quaint & quiet, perfect for an unusual date
Flavour: No-frills ethnic comfort food
Ambiance: Intimate/kitschy
Service: Will refuse you with a smile
Price for 2: (no drinks): 4,900-9,800 ISK mixed platter
Ranking: 3.5/5

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