From Iceland — A Promising Food Gem in Selfoss

A Promising Food Gem in Selfoss

A Promising Food Gem in Selfoss

Published October 12, 2021

Valur Grettisson
Photo by
Art Bicnick

The Mjólkurbúið Mathöll is a new food court in Selfoss with some serious potential.

South Iceland is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, and nowhere is that more evident than at Mjólkurbúið Mathöll in Selfoss. The spacious setting is home to a wide array of foodstuffs, some of which were very pleasantly surprising. We had a wonderful time stuffing ourselves silly as we sampled literally every food booth there. Here are our verdicts:

Photo by Art Bicnick

El Gordito

Valur: What exactly is the definition of a taco? Because you’re quite confused when eating at El Gordito, which seems to think that a taco is a blank canvas for anything with a taco shell wrapped around it. It’s not that simple, of course. The food was fine, but you could barely taste the meat. Overall, way too much happening here, and too little of it is taco-related.

Andie: I was a little bit skeptical about the idea of seared broccoli as a substitute for meat on a taco, but it actually worked. Their take on what constitutes a taco stretches the definition to the very limit; by this standard, a hot dog is arguably a taco. It was tasty, though; just not entirely sure if they ought to be called tacos. “Open wraps”, perhaps?

Shruthi: I commend the confidence of stretching culinary nomenclatures (I don’t). And El Gordito runs amok with their ‘tacos’. That said, the corn tortillas themselves are tasty, even if they’re let down by their fillings. I thought the fried broccoli was nice (so happy to not see the ubiquitous cauliflower). I’m still baffled by their choice of mayo instead of salsa, and crushed chilli-wasabi nuts from the snack aisle.

Photo by Art Bicnick

Romano

Valur: I was not overtaken by the pasta dishes, but they had a warm homey feeling. The pasta felt a little dry and clunky and it was mediocre at best. That said, it felt like a convenient fast food, and in some ways, honest as such.

Andie: Whenever I am served pasta, I always cite my Italian ancestry to give my opinions an air of authority. There’s no need to do that this time, though. The pasta shells were perfectly cooked, and the marinara was the right mix of savory, sweet and spicy. The alfredo was creamy without being cloying, and included some chunks of smoked pork that complimented the spectrum of tastes well.

Shruthi: I’m not Italian but nonetheless profess the same air of authority having grown up on a steady Indian diet of overcooked pasta that would colour an Italian grandma garnet. Which is great, since that is the usual suspect pasta I encounter in Iceland. Romano’s pasta took me right back home with their arrabiata. Granted it didn’t boast enough chilli flakes to deliver that warm heat, but it was comforting in its familiarity. The carbonara, however, is a very Jamie Oliver affair with copious amounts of cream and way-too-chunky hunks of salty pork. The bowl of grated parmesan went down a treat at our table, though.

Photo by Art Bicnick

Flatey Total

Valur: I expected nothing less than excellence here, and of course, Flatey delivered. I loved the pizza with sweet potatoes and dates. Inventive and delicious.

Andie: So I had to try the pizza that boasted hummus in lieu of cheese with sweet potatoes and dates. It turns out that when you cook hummus, the taste of it all but disappears. Either that or it didn’t have much taste to begin with. That said, the sweet potatoes and dates went very well together. Definitely something I’d order for a Friday movie night.

Shruthi: Flatey always delivers. The young pizzaiolo however, would do well to rotate the pie regularly so that the crust is evenly cooked. The yeasty bottoms were both under- and overcooked in the same slice, but kudos to them for making sweet potatoes and hummus on pizza a thing!

Photo by Art Bicnick

Samúelsson Matbar

Valur: I was quite taken by Samúelsson. The veal was perfect and a great pagan option. The meat was tender and tasty, something that you don’t often find in Iceland. The fish was the star, though. Perfect meal, perfect fish, everything was perfect here. Samúelsson was one of my favourites; they hit all the notes and did so impressively. I wasn’t a fan of the truffle fries, though. They didn’t add much to an otherwise perfect meal.

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Andie: Why is anyone still serving veal here in anno domini two thousand and twenty one? Haven’t we all agreed this is the kind of thing that ought to go the way of foie gras? Well, hypocrite that I am, I did still enjoy their chicken salad. Very good use of dark meat, savoury, crunchy, and even light.

Shruthi: I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly chuffed when I read their menu. But boy was I blown away. The veal rib-eye sandwich was hands down one of the best over-the-top sandwiches I’ve had. Samúelsson’s target audience will love the fatty, tender meat and it also manages to be well priced by Icelandic standards. The chicken salad is piled high, with fried cashew nuts in every craggy morsel making it a satisfying lunch. I felt the fish dish could’ve used a little restraint, but overall this was a surprise treat.

Photo by Art Bicnick

Smiðjan Brugghús

Valur: Smiðjan Brugghús is one of those hidden gems in the countryside. You won’t find this place downtown Reykjavík, only in Vík í Mýrdal and this new food hall. Nonetheless, this place serves some of the best chicken burgers and wings in Iceland. The beer selection is both inventive and well-executed. I would drive to the end of the world to have just one more bite or another glass of the mango passion fruit beer.

Andie: Often when you’re served a chicken burger, the result is a perfectly round disk of dense, dry, flavourless “meat” pressed like particle board. This was absolutely not the case with these folks, who served up juicy and crispy dark meat, breaded and fried to perfection. Very likely the best chicken burger I’ve ever tasted. The fries are great, too.

Shruthi: Lemme just say, if these guys were in Reykjavík, they’d sweep the Best Burger category clean. I love that the beef burgers are proper; no brioche bun madness, just a good solid burger that is so goddamn enjoyable to sink your teeth into! Juicy, tender patty, great balance of ratios, an overall great burger. I also really appreciate that they aren’t heavy handed with their sauces. Sorry, sjoppuborgari. Their chicken burger (it wasn’t a sandwich) and wings may have just made Selfoss a culinary destination. What I’d also like to point out is that the consistency between their original Vík outpost and this new one is admirably on point.

Photo by Art Bicnick

Menam

Valur: I don’t really know where to start here. Menam was impeccable. It serves fantastic Thai food at an affordable price and the quality was not only high, but it felt like it was cooked with immense love and respect. Menam is good, and they can only get better. Hands down my favourite and most unexpected experience of our visit.

Andie: Now this was something really special. Soft but firm savoury noodles served with loads of veggies, all of them brimming with flavour. I have absolutely no notes. Just a great job all around.

Shruthi: I would have to go back to sample their proper Thai menu, but as a self-confessed lover of all things stir-fried I can say that their noodles are likely the best I’ve had here in Iceland. Hear me out, cooking on the wok is a real test of skill and experience and Menam manages that signature wok hei smokiness that’s sadly amiss in almost any other restaurant offering stir fried dishes. If you drive to Selfoss for one thing, make it these noodles. Restaurants with passionate owners are a whole nother thing and Menam is very ably helmed.

Photo by Art Bicnick

Dragon Dim Sum

Valur: I liked dim sum. It was good, but the dumplings were not as mind-blowing as expected. Felt like everything was done right, but it also felt like they are still trying to find their groove here.

Andie: I really wanted to like this. I really did. Unfortunately, the mushroom dumplings really didn’t work. They tasted a bit like they had used dried mushrooms that had been soaked in water before cooking (something I’ve done before, so I’m familiar with the taste) and it didn’t help that there was something sandy in one of the bites I took. The dumpling dough is really quite extraordinary though, and I enjoyed the dipping sauce, so maybe they were having an off night.

Shruthi: I was nervous about this franchise venture of Dragon and wondered how dumplings (a notoriously challenging set of dishes to make) would translate to an out-of-town franchise format. I was pleasantly surprised that the flavours and presentation were close to the parent, although the dipping sauces were a let down for me. On the other hand, I find that the already sauced and dressed dumplings seldom need a dip alongside and I enjoyed the vegan cashew red curry number and the shrimp dumplings.

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