So Close, Yet So Far - The Reykjavik Grapevine

So Close, Yet So Far

Words by
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Published July 29, 2015

Tacobarinn

20 Hverfisgata, Reykjavik, Capital Region, Iceland
11:30 - 01:00
What we think
Great location, nice drinks, tortillas needs work.
Flavour
American, South American
Ambiance
Good bistro vibe, bright and spacious.
Service
Very polite and laid back.
Price for 2 (no drinks)
3,800-4,600 ISK

I can still remember the buzz that surrounded Tacobarinn at the time of its grand opening last February. Despite obvious demand, there had been a lack of restaurants in Reykjavík offering something so basic and universally accepted and admired as the taco. Not only that, but Tacobarinn had even built a decent reputation before opening as the head chef was responsible for the popular “Taco Tuesdays” nights at the beloved hipster destination of Coocoo’s Nest.

Naturally I braved the cold winter winds in search of something sunny, spicy and uplifting shortly after the restaurant opened. And at the time, it was sadly a letdown. The tacos themselves were mealy and of a very strange texture, disintegrating at the slightest touch. The filling was good but the base just wasn’t working. Therefore, I leapt at the chance to review Tacobarinn, now four months later, hoping with all my heart this problem had been fixed. Short answer is, sadly, no.

Tacobarinn has a very straightforward menu, as it should, with meat (690 ISK), seafood (690 ISK) and veggie (660 ISK) tacos. Side dishes include Taqueria spicy pickled vegetables (800 ISK) and chilligarlic roasted peanuts (500 ISK). The pickled vegetables are actually quite tasty and carry a surprising amount of heat. My companion and I started off by ordering a Margarita Mercedes (2,100 ISK)—when in Rome and all that. And Tacobarinn does make good margaritas. Very good even.

As for the food, we both ordered the three-taco combo for 1,900 ISK, which we thought was a pretty fair offer. This evening the options were slow-cooked pork, fried cod, and sweet potato tacos. The slow-cooked pork was tasty but a bit chewy for something that had been cooked slowly. However, the vegetables with the pork were crispy and fresh and the homemade hot sauce, crucial for anything at Tacobarinn, gave the whole thing a buzz. The fried cod was very well cooked, and had a very nice touch of fresh coriander, which can of course be offensive to some people. The sweet potato was probably the standout of the three, perfectly cooked and playing nicely off the accompanying onions and kale.

But these are only the interior of the taco—the taco itself is the base of the operation. As previously stated, it’s mealy. I would imagine if it were lighter and crispier, it would take the meal to another level. The current recipe is just not working; I can’t imagine it’s supposed to be this way. Which is very sad as there is definitely a market for good tacos. The restaurant itself has everything else: good service, nice drinks and fair prices.

One more thing: a place that offers tacos should also have on hand at least one type of hot sauce that the staff would basically warn you about because of its dangerously over the top heat.

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