Published January 15, 2019
While only one floor above the bustling streets of Reykjavík, Nostra’s dim-lit interior makes the restaurant feel a world away from any downtown hubbub. A high-class eatery, Nostra’s rotating menu focuses on using local ingredients in unusual ways. Its inventive tasting menu—which is available in four, six, and eight courses with optional wine pairings—will make you rethink your conception of each featured ingredient: salmon belly take centre stage over loin; an entire dish consists of only parsley; the nuances of the oft-overlooked chicken heart are revealed.
A focus on collaboration
Nostra’s menu changes seasonally, but on a quiet Tuesday night, we sit down for their newly-revealed Christmas spread. I choose the normal menu, while my companion—a pescatarian—goes for the vegetarian one. We’re immediately introduced to our waiter, who doubles as a sommelier, explaining with both knowledge and wit the reasons behind each wine pairing. From a rare Swiss choice to a curiously chilled red wine—which, I must say, was superb—the wines are unpredictable in the best way and perfectly compliment each dish.
The meal begins—after a delightful tapioca, dulse, fennel, and strawberries amuse bouche—with seaweed-cured sea trout with lightly fermented cabbage and skyr dressing. A melange of flavours, the dish manages to both showcase each flavour individually while also revealing why they fit so well together. This collaborative focus is a theme you’ll notice throughout every Nostra meal. On one course, potatoes with vichy-sauce foam mix with dehydrated mushrooms and dill chips. All outstanding on their own, they together form the most sophisticated comfort food you’ll find in the city.
The trout is a nice start, but it’s the next dish that truly shows Nostra’s unusual creativity: the previously mentioned grilled chicken hearts complete with dashi, and dried and pickled tomatoes. Outside of Grandma’s chicken soup, I’ve never had chicken hearts, much less chicken hearts in fine dining. Treated with care, they are juicy and tender—a part of the chicken we should perhaps pay more attention to. Nostra’s superiority in cooking meat is again exemplified later on with their gorgeous reindeer steak.
As we travel through the choruses, the main menu focuses on meat and fish while the vegetarian menu relies solely on vegetables—forgoing carbohydrate heavy dishes. From pickled cucumber with sunflower seed purée, to dehydrated and rehydrated beetroot, Nostra’s take on vegetables pushes them to their limit. A particular standout is the whole baked celeriac complete with a celeriac take on a Waldorf salad. While it is absolutely nothing like a steak or fish fillet, it still fills the same niche in your brain—without the too-full lethargy that comes along with a meat-heavy dish.
As the meal ends, we’re served delectable chocolate mousse with nitrogen-frozen cherry granita, all accompanied by a well-deserved glass of port. While some meander home, we retire to Nostra’s bar, Artson, which is conveniently on the other side of the restaurant. There, we sit with cocktails and relax—content, full, and ready to come back next season.