Casa Grande: Go Big Or Go Home - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Casa Grande: Go Big Or Go Home

Larissa Kyzer
Photos by
Art Bicnick

Published August 25, 2015

Casa Grande

Ægisgarður 2
Mon–Sat 12:00–23:30, Sun 16:00–22:30
What we think
A pleasant experience worth a return trip, even if some of the details go amiss.
Flavour
Family-friendly Icelandic standards with playful Mediterranean flourishes.
Ambiance
Warm wood, taverna tchotchke—a spacious antidote to all the angular neo-Scandi decor that RVK is so fond of.
Service
Attentive, super polite, and helpful.
Price for 2 (no drinks)
11,000—20,000 ISK

Located in a red corrugated iron house overlooking the old harbour, Casa Grande is situated smack-dab in the middle of one of the city’s tourist hubs—whale watching tours, an IcelandAir Hotel—and yet, when we arrived, there wasn’t much Gore-Tex on display. Sure, there were travellers, but there was also a local family of four sprawled comfortably in their booth, a few couples, and a woman laughing quietly on her phone by the bar. This may simply be a result of our arriving after peak dinner hours, but it seemed indicative of our overall experience: relaxed and homey

We arrived rather peckish, a challenge which Casa Grande seemed ready to meet, as most portion sizes are generous, to say the least. (It’s in the name, right?) We started with two appetizers: the fried langoustine with watermelon, chili, and fennel (2,790 ISK) and the blue mussels with creamy beer sauce, lemon, and cumin crackers (1,950 ISK). The langoustine arrived amidst decorative curls of beetroot and dramatic sweeps of bright green pesto and a luridly hued sweet potato sauce—one of several colourfully playful and clever platings we’d be treated to during the meal. The shellfish itself was delicate and perfectly cooked, its own subtle sweetness complimented by the sweetness of the melon and the savoury pesto. I could have lived without the sweet potato sauce, however, as it was simply too heavy and didn’t seem to have much to do with anything else on the plate.

The mussels were plentiful and, as typical of the Icelandic variety, bright orange and satisfyingly meaty (“pure protein,” my dinner companion commented). But not much had been done to alter their natural state, which was a bit of a disappointment. The “creamy” broth was thin and translucent, and while it certainly tasted beery, it wasn’t actually all that tasty, nor did it really do anything to enhance the shellfish. There were some parsley sprigs on top of everything, but again—meh. (And we could have really used a discard bowl for the enormous pile of empty shells.)

It was up from there, however, when our mains arrived. I opted for the fish of the day (3,890 ISK)—ling, as it happened— which was served on a bed of creamy barley with onions, and bacon. My companion settled on the “speziale” pizza (2,890 ISK)—one of over a dozen pizzas offered— which was topped with artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, garlic, and feta. The personal pizza was typical of the herby, all-but-sauceless pizzas popular around town, but with a better-than-average pillowy crust and a pretty generous distribution of cheese. It was satisfying, if somewhat standard.

Another pleasing plating, my ling arrived in two portions on opposites side of the dish (East Beast, West Beast-style, for any of you Dr. Suess enthusiasts), with flourishes of a teriyaki-style glaze and that blasted sweet potato sauce again. (Lest I malign this sauce too much, let me say that my companion was much more of a fan than I was and argued that it actually had a very nice flavour by itself. But it really, really shouldn’t be served with white fish.) The fish was, again, very well cooked—flaky and soft and seasoned with a deft hand. And I honestly could eat barrels of that barley. Savoury and creamy, with a nice bit of texture from a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. I’d have a meal of just that if it were on offer.

We were reaching full capacity at this point, but decided to end with coffee and a shared dessert, the amaretto panna cotta with almonds and passion fruit sorbet (1,390 ISK). This seems as good a time as any to mention that the service was fantastic—our courses were well-spaced and the host of extremely friendly and attentive waiters were always on hand to take orders, refill drinks, clear plates, or whathaveyou. And so, having had the ideal amount of time to sip our coffees, our desert arrived, right on cue.

This was a highlight of the meal for sure, and another really lovely plate to look at: a nicely firm and creamy panna cotta plumped down next to bright orange sorbet (bright orange seems to be a bit of a theme colour at Casa Grande), with a magenta-toned fruity dust, raspberries and blueberries, white and dark chocolate garnishes, and—my favourite—crystal-like cubes of citrus gelatine. I admit that not all of these flourishes were strictly necessary, but they were fun, and provided each other with a nice counterbalance of textures. The tart gelatine offset the sweetness of the sorbet (a tad too sweet, but still very good), and the panna cotta was nice and light with just enough almondy flavour to play off the fruit. A really nice end to the meal.

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