When reviewing a restaurant for the first time it’s hard to know what to expect. In the case of Café Ópera, which has been a fixture of the downtown dining circuit for years, it felt odd to have never ventured inside before. Located on Lækjargata, it’s a place absolutely everyone and their grandma has walked past at some point. The interior turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
From the kitsch posters and paintings to the piano hanging on the wall, the decor at Café Ópera has a bohemian, early 20th century feel to it. The staff was friendly and numerous, perhaps owing to our early arrival, and more than eager to please. The chef wanted to personally discuss upcoming changes to the menu, and we were given the opportunity to taste a variety of dishes that he handpicked – both from off and on the current menu. As a result of the bewildering and seemingly never-ending array of foods that was brought before us, recalling specifics is difficult.
There was a great lobster soup: creamy, made with cognac and thankfully not greasy at all. There was shellfish, presented to us looking like a fine artwork – a skill that would be much in evidence for the rest of the evening. There was carpaccio and sorbet, lobster and giant prawn. Basically, there was a lot of really good food, the remains of which we had to tearfully send back in order to be able to partake in the next treat.
Café Ópera is famous for its hot rock steaks, and close to the end of the evening we got to experience that rather unusual culinary phenomenon. Basically, someone sticks a rock into the depths of hell itself until it’s hot enough to burn through asbestos. Then the rock is put on a heat-resistant tray, raw meat and a potato are put on top, and a mad dash to the customer’s table begins. You actually cook the meat as you eat it, and while that may sound intimidating the experience was as fun as it is delicious. At the very least, it’s something different to try.
To top it all off, we had a warm chocolate cake with ice cream for dessert. It was a beautifully presented, fudgy kind of brownie, and not being able to finish it was a real shame. GHJ