As far as fast food in Iceland goes, there are few establishments that have a more attractive name than “Red Chili.” The family-style restaurant serves burgers and sandwiches while—according to their website—specialising in Mexican cuisine. Keep in mind that my companion and I had basically chosen our dishes before we went: we wanted to give the kitchen the minimum challenge of simply serving us their specialities. A safe bet. Or so we thought.
We came in just after lunch, as we imagined things would be slow enough for us to have a quiet talk while enjoying our meal. Indeed it was slow—we were the only guests in the restaurant. Our waiter appeared after we had lingered for about three minutes in the lobby and proceeded to show us to seats next to a window overlooking the traffic of upper Laugavegur. The service was just what one might expect from a fast-food establishment, and our expectations for the waiter to explain the menu in detail were not high.
To start with, we had something very “fast-foody,” though not at all Mexican in any way. I went with the Buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing (1,090 ISK for 8 pieces) while my companion chose deep fried shrimp with sweet chilli sauce and, the very out of place, garlic-pepper dressing (1,390 ISK).
The Buffalo wings were obviously prepared some days before they appeared on my plate, not to mention that I actually got BBQ-wings, something very different from the otherwise hot-sauce-based Buffalo wings. The deep-fried shrimp were warm through, which is as much of a compliment as they are going get. They looked like they had been bought frozen, and were chewy and displeasing to taste. The garlic-pepper dressing made no sense whatsoever.
For our main course we chose the Fajitas Combo (4,990 ISK for two) made from fillet of beef, chicken breast, bell peppers and onions. The course was a self-serve kind of deal, as we were presented with some flour tortillas and basic condiments such as rice, grated cheese, sour cream, salsa and guacamole.
To put it mildly, this course was as far from Mexico as, well, Iceland. The chicken and beef were served on a skillet, and had been soaked in sweet chilli sauce. Why this was is beyond my comprehension. The tortillas, salsa and guacamole—all very easy to make from scratch—were obviously the same stuff that you buy in the supermarket. This is appalling given that the establishment prides itself on Mexican cuisine. To make fresh guacamole is not time consuming either, and not even expensive in comparison to something bought from Casa Fiesta, which I am about 90% sure that the stuff on my plate was. The seasoning was off as well and, considering the name of the place—named after one of nature’s greatest wonders—there was not at any point, during the whole meal, any hint of fresh chilli (or flakes, or powder) present. Never. How is that even possible?
Needless to say, we weren’t really in the mood for dessert after this experience, even though we left most of our main courses untouched. A feeling of guilt soon followed, as I am a part-time meat-eater that from time to time relies on the excuse, “but it’s just so damn good!” That was not the case this time around. I feel bad that an animal, no, animals, had to give their life for a meal like this. It was disrespectful at best.
What we think: Nothing Mexican about this alleged Mexican place. No chilli either.
Flavour: Sweet chilli sauce
Ambiance: Family style, silly stuff upon the walls
Price for 2 (no drinks): 8,000 ISK
Our Rating: 0.5/5
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