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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Road Trip - Iceland - Exotic Tapas

One of our most exciting plans for our trip to Iceland was to try as many local foods as possible.  On our first night in Reykjavik we decided to try the Icelandic Gourmet Feast, a tasting menu of Icelandic dishes at Tapas Barinn in the centre of town.  

Tapas Barinn, Reykjavik
Tapas Barinn, Reykjavik
The atmosphere was cozy and a little dark.  We ordered a bottle of Spanish red wine to accompany our dishes and all ordered the tasting menu.  The first thing served was a shot of Brennivin, an Icelandic liquor flavoured with caraway.  It is also called "Black Death" but it wasn't bad at all.   

Tapas Barinn Reykjavik smoked puffin
Smoked puffin served with blueberry brennivin sauce
The first dish was Icelandic smoked puffin served with blueberry brennivin sauce.  This was the least successful of all the dishes we tried. It was served at a cool temperature and that and the texture made it not so appetizing. 

Tapas Barinn Lobster tails baked in garlic
Lobster tails baked in garlic
But the next course was the most delicious thing I ate on the whole trip!  Lobster tails baked in garlic.  The Icelandic lobster is actually a langoustine, sort of like a large shrimp. The tails were served in a hot dish with garlic butter and a lemon on the side.  So delicious!  

Tapas Barinn pan-fried monkfish with lobster sauce
Pan-fried monkfish with lobster sauce

Next we were served pan-fried monkfish with lobster sauce. The fish was lovely and tender in a tasty sauce. 

Icelandic sea trout with pepper salsa & Minke whale
Next came Icelandic sea trout with pepper salsa, which was much tastier than I expected.  I am not always over the moon when it comes to fish but I think that comes from living in the centre of North America with very little good fresh fish available. This trout was delicious!

Tapas Barinn Minke whale in cranberry sauce
Minke whale in cranberry sauce

Along with the trout we received the most exotic, controversial and exciting dish on the tasting menu: Minke whale. There's a general moratorium on whaling all over the world, but Japan and some Nordic countries, including Iceland, continue to hunt whale. Minke whale is not endangered but some people do have an objection to eating the meat. We figured we'll likely never have the chance again so we might as well try it.

We were not disappointed.  It was delicious!  It was served over a sweet potato pure with a cranberry glaze. It was extremely meaty, almost like steak but with a slightly different flavour and texture. It tasted wonderful and I'm so glad we had the opportunity to try it.  

Grilled Icelandic Lamb
 Next came grilled Icelandic lamb Samfaina served with zucchini and peppers in a minty sauce.  This was lovely and tender and the vegetables were nice.  

Tapas Barinn
Here's a variety of our dishes on the table. The service was good but the dishes were a little rushed. It would have been nice to have a little time between courses but they came two or three at a time, perhaps that's how tapas should be served but we would have preferred a slower pace. 

Dessert & coffee
Dessert was White chocolate skyr mousse with passionfruit coulis. It was like a cheesecake but so light and delicious. I also indulged in a pricy spanish coffee.  Liquor is pretty expensive in Iceland but it was a great pairing with the dessert. 
Tapas Barinn White chocolate skyr mousse with passionfruit coulis
White chocolate skyr mousse with passionfruit coulis
 This meal was an outstanding introduction to Icelandic cuisine. To be honest I wasn't expecting a whole lot because it seemed like a tourist joint and I couldn't reconcile the spanish tapas concept with Icelandic food, but it was truly wonderful and our best meal on the whole trip.

We liked it so much we went back a second time!  There were a few dishes we missed on our first trip that we wanted to try, and some favourites we wanted to repeat. On our second trip we ordered the lobster, lamb and again.  

Tapas Barinn Icelandic foal in Calvados sauce
Icelandic foal in Calvados sauce
 We also ordered the filet of Icelandic foal in Calvados sauce. It tasted sort of similar to lamb with a rich taste and texture. 

Tapas Barinn grilled sweet peppers
Grilled Sweet Peppers
 This is roasted peppers and salad, a nice light dish.  

Tapas Barinn Baked potato with salad and Alioli
Baked potato with salad and Alioli
Also a baked potato and salad was exactly as advertised. 

Tapas Barinn Serrano ham with melon and horseradish
Serrano ham with melon
 As was Serrano ham with melon and horseradish, a nice refreshing bite.  

To spend two of our five prescious vacation dinners at the same restaurant meant we really liked what they had to offer. If you happen to be in Reykjavik and would like to try Icelandic cuisine, I highly recommend this restaurant. It is very reasonably priced and the food is delicious. Even if you're a little shy about trying new things, they have a wonderful menu with lots of options.

Tapas Barinn
Vesturgötu 3b
101 Reykjavík
Sími 551 2344

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