Sjávarkjallarinn roughly translates to “the sea cellar”, but don’t let the name fool you – this isn’t a hangout for drunken sailors but surely one of the finest seafood restaurants in Reykjavík. Their two celebrated chefs have each won the ‘Icelandic Chef of the Year’ award and they have two junior champions as apprentices. Arriving on a Sunday evening to find the place packed and customers being turned away, we felt a tinge of guilt but were further reassured that this place would provide us with one of the better dining experiences available in the city.
The staff was attentive, and not afraid to smile. They rose to the challenge of describing the sometimes ridiculously wide variety of fancy-sounding ingredients without missing a beat. The sashimi and nigri on the starter menu turned out to be a clue to the fact that one of the main influences on the chefs at Sjávarkjallarinn is Asian cuisine. Practically everything was served with (or on) exotic looking leaves and delicate bamboo ornaments. Some of the less recognisable ingredients turned out to be of Asian origin as well. The fusion works unbelievably well. The HUGE lobster platter my dining partner was presented with, for example, contained such things as wasabi and cream sauce. It was truly a feast. My tuna steak with king crab was served tandoori style with satay sauce and god knows what else – the flavours came at me from all directions and I couldn’t have been more satisfied.
The dessert menu arrived in the form of a billboard-sized plaque that looked as comically oversized as those cheques one only sees at award ceremonies and charity events. As unwieldy as the thing was to hold at the table, the sorbet and wild-cacao bean soufflé we picked out from it were both mind-blowing. The wild-cacao bean is a notoriously dangerous creature, and fights to the death when cornered, so it is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of the staff that they risk life and limb to apprehend this elusive but delicious prey. All kidding aside, it was delicious.
Overall, we were greatly impressed with Sjávarkjallarin and the prices were surprisingly fair, considering the artistry involved in the creation of each dish (eating them really does feel like trashing a masterpiece) – and the obvious demand.
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