Published September 26, 2015
- What we think
- One of the best late night snacks on offer.
- Syrian, Arabic.
- Laid back, until the city gets drunk.
- Personable, respectful.
- Price for 2 (no drinks)
- 2,600-2,800 ISK. A steal!
In an ideal world, the few Syrian families who have settled in Iceland over the last few years would be here by choice. They would have been free to come here and start a new life—not to seek refuge far from their home in order to find a safe haven from bombs and bullets. Alas.
Aside from enriching the nation’s culture, Iceland’s up-until-now small group of Syrian settlers have done Reykjavík a great service, which cannot be underestimated. Namely, parts of the group have forayed into the restaurant business, answering downtown Reykjavík’s ever-growing shawarma/kebab demand. Today, there are three establishments of Syrian origin in downtown Reykjavík, and it seems that every local foodie has an opinion on which one of them is the best. The most recent one to open is called Mandi, a place I regularly patronise. For the purposes of this review, I had the pleasure of going one more time.
Mandi is not your typical fast food restaurant. It also operates as a quick-stop shop, where customers can buy anything from cigarettes to sweets. However, its main attraction remains the food. The opening hours are very friendly towards us night owls: the shop is basically always open as long as people are out on the town enjoying themselves. Which is good, because their fare makes for a perfect late-night snack to ease the sufferings of The Day After.
This time around, my companion and I actually visited Mandi on a Tuesday evening. The restaurant is relatively busy all day long, and only has about ten barstools for seating. Therefore, take-away shawarma rolls are a very popular choice among its patrons. We started off our visit by ordering some hummus (600 ISK). Aside from the price being an absolute steal, it is by far the best hummus you’ll find in Reykjavík. By far! Served with crispy deep-fried pieces of a pita pocket, perfect for scooping it up, the hummus is silky smooth, flavourful and fragrant. Pro Tip: If you’re having a drink at a bar that‘s close by and doesn‘t serve food, run to Mandí and get some take-away hummus. You’re welcome.
For a main course, my carnivore companion decided on a staple, a classic Arabic grilled shawarma (1,090 ISK) with chicken marinated in Arabic spices, salad, yoghurt sauce and Mandi spicy sauce. This makes for a very satisfying meal, and holds up against the best of them—anywhere in Europe. The same can be said for my vegetarian choice, the falafel roll (1,000 ISK), which has about the same ingredients, save for the chicken, replaced by delicious, deep-fried falafel balls. The rolls are aromatic, sweet and savoury, with fragrant spices and lovely tastes of garlic, turmeric, sumac and cinnamon.
Oh, yeah. Did I mention there’s tea on offer? It’s very lovely—and it‘s free.
Mandi is great. But, there’s one thing. And I really hope the lovely restaurateurs will see this and take note. The spicy sauce… well, it just isn‘t spicy at all. This can be very easily be amended. An on-site shaker of chili flakes would also go a long way .
That said: Bon appetit, or: شهية جيدة