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Indulging in Iceland


View from inside Brút in Reykjavík
View from inside Brút in Reykjavík

I love fine dining for the artistry of it all — the presentation of the menu, the way the servers float through the room and the chef(s) plate the dishes, the journey of flavors with each course, the ambiance of the dining room, and the often times custom level of customer service.


On my first trip to Iceland in 2019, I fell in love with the fresh fish, homemade rye bread, and grass-fed butter. Since then, I've read about how the culinary scene has grown, especially with the first Michelin Star restaurant in the country getting its star in 2015, followed by a couple others. So for my second trip to Iceland, I wanted to experience the cool new elevated experiences chefs are creating in Iceland by indulging in some Michelin restaurants during my time in the capitol of Reykjavik.


Do you know why eating at Michelin Star restaurants in Iceland is actually economical? In Iceland, you don't tip when you go out to dine. So the charge you see on your bill is the charge you pay and no more. This means your bill will actually come out less than what you'd find at the same caliber restaurant in the U.S. due to our tip culture.


I waited too long to book one of the two one-star restaurants in Reykjavik, so instead I reserved tables at two Michelin recognized restaurants. The Michelin Guide, born out of the French tire company's marketing campaign in 1926, includes one, two, and three star restaurants that are awarded based on exceptional cuisine. Also included in the Guide are restaurants that don't have stars, which Michelin inspectors have recognized as having quality food and service. That designation has been given to both Brút and Matur og Drykkur, both of which I dined.


Brút.


This restaurant is inside the Radisson Blu hotel, which is a historic building dating to the early 1900s that was the headquarters of a shipping company. The interior is gorgeous and modern, with wood tones and velvet, and I love the ceiling of the entryway. The menu focuses on Icelandic seafood. This place is special because former head chef of the Michelin Star restaurant Dill, Ragnar Eiríksson, leads the kitchen. After he took over as head chef of Dill in 2015, Ragnar's talent brought Iceland its first Michelin Star in 2017. Alongside him as co-owner at Brút is sommelier and restauranteur Ólafur Örn Ólafsson. (The pair also owns the wine bar Vínstúkan, so you know that wine is a big passion of theirs!) The wine offerings at Brút comes in a small book rather than a one-page list, with chapters dividing the different sections based on your interests, like "Funky Shit."


I dined with a friend at this restaurant, who ordered the wine pairing, which means she received a carefully selected wine that was presented and poured with each dish. I indulged in the five course menu and ordered an incredible mocktail. At the start of any truly great Icelandic dinner is a nicely baked bread and creamy Icelandic butter topped with flaky salt. The bread course kicked off the night with one of my favorite dishes coming next: the Marinated Scallops that were raw and served with tomato in citrus and oil sauce. My other favorites were the Rock Crab with local crab tossed in citrus and served on seeded crackers and the dessert cart wheeled out full of tarts and the biggest bottle of Port I've ever seen. I tried a few sips of the wine served with the crab and it's my new obsession: G.D. Vajra's Langhe Riesling Petracine 2021, the first Riesling of Piedmonte. The dry wine with notes of citrus, the slightest pineapple, honey, and oak were so fun for a Riesling and added an acidic characteristic that was needed to elevate the dish. The menu was seafood forward and had some great dishes. The meal cost me 12.900 Kr. (currently $96.52 USD).


Matur og Drykkur.


These words translate to Food and Drink and is the name of an Icelandic cookbook. This family restaurant finds Icelandic cookbooks and other written material that contain old, traditional recipes that they can then transform in a creative and modern way.


I indulged in the 6 course menu. Seven courses if you count the bread course that came with a huge dollop of creamy grass-fed Icelandic butter topped with a generous sprinkle of flaky salt...my favorite!! My other favorite dishes of course were the Cod Cheek, which I don't know how to describe other than incredibly tender and silky, with lovage and buttermilk; and the Potato Waffle with slow cooked lamb in Icelandic IPA, topped with sauerkraut and pine. Each dish's main ingredients were allowed to shine, being accompanied by complex flavors that complimented them rather than competed.


Tucked at the far end of the city within the Saga Museum, Matur og Drykkur is a quiet and cozy spot with a rustic feel through its decor, that served the most memorable Icelandic cuisine. The dining room here is small with a view of the plating area and the window to the kitchen, which is fun (because you can be nosy and watch). Sitting by myself and riding the journey through traditional flavors with modern techniques made for a very satisfying meal. The meal cost me 14.900 Kr. (currently $111.48 USD).



If you find yourself in town, here are the other Michelin Guide restaurants:


One Michelin Star

  • Dill. Not only does this restaurant have one Michelin Star, it is also designated as Sustainable Gastronomy they try to use every part of the animal for their dishes when they can. On the menu you will find traditional Icelandic methods meeting modern techniques. Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason first opened Dill in 2009, and while he left for NYC when Dill received its first star in 2015, it lost its star in 2019. He saw that as a sign to move back to Iceland and reclaim Michelin status, which he was able to do just one year later.

  • ÓX. This restaurant earned its first Michelin Star in 2022, with its traditional Icelandic cuisine with modern twists. There's only slightly more than a dozen seats where the chefs personally serve guests and talk through the menu. ÓX is a small restaurant by Chef Thrainn Freyr Vigfusson in the back of his more casual restaurant Sümac.

Michelin recognized

  • Sümac. The kitchen is led by Chef and Owner Thráinn Freyr Vigfússon and Chef Jakob Zarioh Baldvinsson. The menu features Icelandic ingredients cooked in Middle Eastern styles, with influences from North Africa to Lebanese. This seven course tasting menu can be upgraded with a wine pairing, but you can also order à la carte. The wood-fired grill adds a rustic touch to most dishes on the menu.

  • Tides. Located in the EDITION hotel, the menu here is all about an Icelandic and Nordic base with worldly flavor influences. This is another one of the talented Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason's restaurants. Tides offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner featuring à la carte options. Being a part of the hotel, they also support the bar and cafe.

While the Michelin Guided restaurants with set menus in Iceland are around $100 USD/pp, Michelin Star restaurants require a little more from you — Dill is currently going for $150 for food and $150 additional for a wine pairing, where ÓX is currently going for $405, which includes food, wine pairing or non alcoholic drink pairing, and coffee. But again, due to not having to tip at these restaurants, you do walk out of these experiences knowing the price you see when you book is the price you pay.


I'm already thinking about how I can come back to finally hit a Michelin Star restaurant in Iceland next year...

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