Sushi Showdown - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Sushi Showdown

Sushi Showdown

Published August 5, 2009

DOMO, Þingholtsstræti 5 (www.domo.is)
What we think: Upscale sushi dinner with wonderful service
Flavour: Western
Ambiance: Black jackets, modern decor
Service: Excellent
Price per piece:  from 240 ISK up
Dinner Sun-Wed 18-22, Thu 18-23, Fri-Sat 18-24
Rating: 3.5/5
DOMO serves a fine dining menu with French-Asian influences and an additional list of sushi. For a celebratory sushi dinner, DOMO is the place.
We chose Alaska roll (1850 ISK), spider roll (1950 ISK) and a mix of sushi and sashimi (3400 ISK for 14, 4400 for 22).
The strongly teriyaki flavoured Alaska roll — eel, tuna and cream cheese — was heavy on umami flavours and satisfying, if not overly subtle. The spider roll and the maki were good, while the salmon teriyaki combination added little of interest.
The sashimi was nicely cut and attractively presented on a bed of ice in an oversized seashell. The simple approach was elegant and effective. Most interesting of the sashimi cuts was the mint and coriander cured halibut. The curing added a subtle touch and green hint to the delicate white fish, but had an influence on the structure that I liked, but my date didn’t. Sadly, all three of the cured and uncured halibut and the salmon were not of the finest fillets; the salmon was flat tasting and both variations on the halibut were too chewy.
The nigiri, repeating the same trio of fish, suffered from a similar problem. The overly sweet-vinegared rice also overpowered the flavours of the fish.
The service on the other hand made the DOMO dinner a positive experience. Our waiter was exceptionally friendly, yet not too slick; one step ahead, with eyes in the back of his head to run to the rescue whenever there was need. When my nationality was revealed in the end of the meal, he even switched to perfect Finnish.

Fishmarket, Aðalstræti 12 (www.fiskmarkadurinn.is)
What we think: For a cheap sushi lunch in a chic setting, Fishmarket is your place
Flavour: Western style sushi with a thick layer of sauces
Ambiance: Fish skin on reels, bamboo on the walls
Service: hot and cold
Price per piece:  100ISK on lunch, 350 ISK on dinner
Lunch Mon-Fri 11.30-14, dinner Mon-Sun 18-23.30
Rating: 3/5
Hip Fishmarket serves sushi for both lunch and dinner from its Raw bar. Alongside DOMO, it is the other fine dining sushi choice. In both, sushi is a side-kick to the traditional menu.
Fishmarket’s lunch menu consists of easily accessible, Western style basics – salmon, tuna and California rolls, nigiri and sashimi – and is welcomingly priced around 1400 ISK. Word has that it’s a good way to spend your lunch money.
On the other hand, a dinner menu starter with 8-pieces of assorted maki and nigiri costs you a salty 2800 ISK. We recently had the dinner sushi, which was good, but over-flooded with dressings and roe and spoiled by service cold enough to freeze the water in your glass.

Sushismiðjan, Geirsgata 3 (www.Sushismiðjan.is)
What we think: Eat in, not out
Flavour: pre-made for take away, fresh and spicy in the restaurant  
Ambiance: Fresh sea breeze on the harbour
Service: Very good
Price per piece:  From 199 ISK up
Eat in: 3/5
Take Out: 1.5/5
With its take-away stall in the turquoise harbour house, Sushismiðjan has been in the business since 2003. The offerings include pre-made sushi trays and cold Japanese noodles.
The 10-piece takeaway tray (1.990 ISK) was exactly what one would expect: Pre-made sushi that has been standing on its tray in the shop.
Thankfully, the owners have just opened a restaurant on the other side of the warehouse to cater for eaters-in. On our visit, the brand new place was tip-top. Here, the sushi is made fresh to order.
I had miso soup with tofu (600 ISK), which was excellent, and shared a plate of 14 pieces of mixed sushi (around 2.800 ISK) with my date. The presentation was straightforward (a plate with pieces of sushi on it), but the flavours were good, selection varied and the fish fresh. The vegetarian avocado-mango-roll burst with flavour, but the spicy crab rolls burned so I had to eat a good pile of ginger in my desperation. The food looks somehow machine-made, but whatever it is, it sure is good.
What better than a walk by the old harbour after a meal of fresh sushi?

Sushibarinn, Laugavegur 2
What we think: Good sushi, slow service
Flavour: The most authentic with a widest selection
Ambiance: Easy-going
Service: Slow motion
Price per piece: From 137 ISK to 600 ISK
Opening hours Mon-Sat 11.30-22, Sun 17.30-22.
Rating: 3/5
Sushibarinn has reputedly been the best bet for sushi in town since opening in 2007. Lately, the quality of the offerings has depended greatly on the day’s chef—and the chef’s day.
The little shop is the most authentic option for sushi in town, with the widest selection around. We chose “Best for 1” (1650 ISK) and continued the order with a mixed sushi and sashimi tray (2150 ISK), a bowl of miso with fish (650 ISK), a battleship with flying fish roe (400 ISK) and the weekly changing special, arctic char maki (1000 ISK).
And then, we waited.
It took the three behind the bar 45 minutes to get the order ready, with no other clients when I entered, nor an overwhelming rush. By the time I finally got to eat, I could’ve eaten just about anything – except for the muddy miso soup, where something had gone seriously wrong.
Otherwise, the fish was fresh and the rolls pretty. The sashimi came in generous, if inelegantly cut, thick pieces. The flying fish battleship was good and the weekly roll divided opinions – one of us didn’t like it, another sushi thief who stole a piece from behind our backs loved it.
We got what we paid for, my sushi-loving friend and I agreed. But somehow it was all marked by a dull taste, or lack of taste. Maybe today it was the rice cook whose day our meal depended on?

OSUSHI – The Train, Lækjargata 2a
What we think: O-oh my fish is warm
Flavour: Pre-made sushi
Ambiance: Train in a department store
Service: Friendly
Price per piece: 100 ISK to 400 ISK
Rating: 1.5/5
The upstairs-at-Iða OSUSHI offers a train option for sushi lovers. The deal is simple: the plates passing by on a conveyer belt are colour-coded, and the sushi on them is priced accordingly, ranging from 200 to 400 ISK. The price of the meal is calculated by the cashier, to whom you carry your pile of plates after the meal.
At seven on a weeknight, OSUSHI was packed with hungry tourists. I, however, quickly ran into trouble. What puzzled my mind was just how the conductors of the train prevent the portions from surfing around the restaurant for hours on end. The friendly and charmingly honest staff confirmed my suspicions: OSUSHI’s only way to control the time the sushi stays on the table is to not fill the belt when it’s quiet. And as it was put to us, “sometimes you may get unlucky.”
Considering the fishy odours that rose up from under the various plastic “caps” and that all the sushi I ate was warm, I felt somewhat ill at ease. One tuna roll was cautiously left uneaten. The pre-made sushi’s troubles with rice were bothersome here as well, and the breaded KFC-style prawns were dry and tasteless.
The train-style sushi was invented by Yoshiaki Shiraishi. He also invented robotic-style sushi, served by robots. I am anxiously waiting for this innovation to land on the shores of Reykjavik.

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