The restaurant Einar Ben is named after one of Iceland’s national heroes, the early 20th century poet and entrepreneur Einar Benediktsson, who once lived in the house where the restaurant is now located, and ran the first Icelandic newspaper and later a law firm from this location. In many ways, the restaurant Einar Ben pays homage to the historic relations coupled with the house and the person who lived there. The interior colour scheme is inspired by the national flag, the decor is warm and influenced by the early 20th century Icelandic living room and romantic landscape paintings decorate the walls. But nowhere is the Icelandic influence more apparent than in the menu. Built around Icelandic ingredients, Einar Ben’s menu shies away from the fusion explosion that we have seen Reykjavík restaurants fall victim to en masse. Not that I have anything against fusion, it only becomes tiresome when everyone is doing it. Head chef Friðgeir Ingi seems to have been inspired by the New Nordic Cusine philosophy, which stresses the use of local produce and fresh material.
We opted for the five-course chef’s pride, based on the freshest material of the day. The tour started with seared scallops, a tricky material to get right as it tends to be dense if overcooked and quite unpleasant if undercooked. This did the trick though. Next up, we received creamed carrot soup with pearl onion and liquorice. I’ll admit that I had my reservations about this dish, which was not lessened when I saw the orange-grey goo it turned out to be. But, this dish was pleasurable surprise, and in and of it self worthy of a return visit. The highlight was the fried bacalao with tomato and date jam, garlic chips and red wine glaze we received next. I would have preferred a double dose of that, rather than the lamb that followed. While hardly worthy of harsh words, the lamb lacked flavour and could probably have done with a little more seasoning. For dessert I found myself yet again pleasantly surprised by the skyr crème brûlée with ice cream, created from the all-Icelandic dairy product skyr, which proved to be an excellent alternative to the more familiar custard base.
- Where Veltusund 1, 101 Reykjavík
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