Argentína has been a well-known establishment in Reykjavík since it first opened in 1989, but its heyday was undoubtedly in the ‘90s. Throughout the decade of questionable hairstyles and 501 Levi’s jeans, Argentína was the restaurant of choice for lead singers of pop groups, movie stars and business moguls who wanted to see and be seen. This, however, has not been the case after the turn of the century.
As the name suggests, Argentína’s forte is something very Argentinian—huge charcoal grilled steaks. The place itself is very “macho,” as far as the term goes: there’s a lot of wood on the walls and a large grill is placed in the middle of the dining area next to the kitchen. The decor is somewhere between a hunting lodge and the inside of a medieval castle—but in a good way. The place is very clean and the air is not too heavy or stuffy, despite the grill. I’d hate to imagine how it was, however, when Argentína offered up huge cigars after the meal, back in the days when indoor smoking was allowed. Ahh, the ‘90s…
In any case, today’s menu is made up of starters consisting of either something with langoustines or Carpaccio. My companion chose roasted langoustines and escargot in garlic and coriander (2,980 ISK). The dish came with a bit of rocket salad and a citrus dressing which was very refreshing. The langoustines were a touch overcooked, but overall a fine starter. I had the lobster soup with lobster tails and cream (2,420 ISK). It was a cognac-based soup, very powerful and tasty. There tends to be confusion in Iceland about what a lobster is and what a langoustine is, and this was not lobster, but langoustine. There could have been more langoustine tails, but knowing what was coming up next, there was no reason to complain.
Before our main course, our waiter also brought us a palette-cleanser. A mint sorbet served in a wine glass with sparkling wine. This was a nice touch, very refreshing, perfect for starting anew.
For our main courses we had already decided that we were going to “pack in an artery,” to quote Seinfeld. When in Rome and all that. My companion had the 35- day dry aged rib-eye (6,350 ISK) and I went for the more conventional T-Bone steak (5,930 ISK). All steaks at Argentína are served with a baked potato with sour cream, wok-fried vegetables and a sauce of choice. My companion chose the classic béarnaise, while I had the foyot-version—basically a béarnaise with beef stock. Both our steaks were cooked to a tender medium-rare perfection, they were truly “melt in your mouth” delicious, not really needing anything like the sauce or extra seasoning. True meat heaven. The sauces were however, quite good. The foyot was excellent even.
For dessert my companion decided on a warm Valrhona chocolate cake served with home-made vanilla ice cream (1,940 ISK). I was basically too full by this point and simply asked for a spiked coffee drink, the “Argentina” (1,450 ISK) with amaretto, tequila and whipped cream. Perfect for the time and place and very tasty. The Valrhona takes 20 minutes, as it is made from scratch, but it was totally worth it. It had a wet and oozy centre and it went well with the fresh vanilla ice cream and honey-roasted crushed nuts for some crunchy texture—a true delight.
All in all we were very pleased with our meal. There were hardly any faults and the service was impeccable. Everything was explained very clearly, our glasses were always full and we were made to feel very relaxed and at home—the way it should be. We both agreed that Argentína is due for a revival. The meaty, creamy, buttery culinary arts might not be good for you on a daily basis, but if you want to indulge in those elements once in a while—Argentína is the place for you.
What We Think: It’s an Argentina steakhouse – rustic, macho and meaty
Flavour: South American, southern European
Ambiance: Fine dining, but relaxed and homey too
Service: Service is sencond to none
Price for 2 (with drinks): 30 – 35,000 ISK
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