Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Cafe Loki - Reykjavik, Iceland

Our first day in Iceland we rented a car at Keflavik Airport and drove into Reykjavik. Eventually we got to the Hallgrimskirkja Church, took a look around, then spotted Cafe Loki across the street which touts its "Icelandic traditional food." I recognized the name as one I'd read about and we decided to try it for lunch. 
Cafe Loki from near the church. 
The church from the second floor window of Cafe Loki.
The cafe name features an image of the church for its "L". 
A mural on the second floor dining room, apparently of the Icelandic sagas. 
Judy ordered gratinated plokkfiskur, a mashed fish with cheese on top of it. Plokkfiskur is traditionally a fish stew with a white fish like, cod, haddock or halibut, potatoes, a white sauce and onion. This pookkfiskur, or mashed fish, was more like a casserole, with smashed cod and a bunch of Gruyere cheese melted on it. It is comfort food and the cheese on top added lots of nice flavor. 

Judy really loved this dish. She mentioned it several times later on in the trip. 
I got the Icelandic plate which came with mashed fish (plokkfiskur) without melted cheese on top, resting on rye bread; smoked trout on rye bread; smoked lamb on flatbread; dried fish with a side package of butter; and fermented sharks in little cubes with some tooth picks. 
I started out with some hot chocolate. It was cool enough that the hot chocolate was appreciated. 

My mashed fish was not quite as good as Judy's, as hers had melted cheese on top. The rye bread, which it rested on, is much better than rye bread cooked in the U.S. It is not baked, but steamed (either in the oven or in a geothermal area), is thick, sweet and soft. I don't normally like rye bread, but could eat this stuff all day. 
The smoked lamb was disappointing. I love lamb, but the smoking kind of neutralizes the lamby taste. The flat bread was unusual for me, and pretty good. 
The smoked trout was delicious, the best thing we ate. 
The dried fish is a puzzler. If you have any spit, it soaks it up fast. If you gnaw on it long enough you can eventually get enough spit to soften it up, but it was what I would think of as food storage material - good in an emergency, but nothing you want to eat. The waitress said it was traditionally eaten with butter, which I tried, and it didn't help it much.  
The fermented shark is in small cubes for good reason. It smells like ammonia, tastes like it smells, and must be left by 99% of the people who try it. I'll go into more detail on a specific post on it, but it is not for the feint of heart or stomach. I ate two pieces and did just fine, but had no inclination to finish the rest of it. 
I also ordered sheep-head jelly, Iceland's version of German head cheese, with turnips and bean salad. 

The turnips were mostly mashed and were yellow and sweet, a lot like butternut squash. The "bean" salad was more of a pea and carrot salad with lots of mayonnaise, something I would think of as a Russian dish. The head cheese was much more head than jelly and quite good. Traditional German head cheese is usually in very small bits and pieces. These lamby bits were quite large and dominated and actually stood out. I like it a lot. Along with some elk head cheese I had once, the best head cheese I've tried. 
We came back to Cafe Loki for another evening meal when we were not particularly hungry. Judy got some lamb meat soup which she quite liked. 

I liked it, but would like it to be more well seasoned. 
I ordered the Icelandic plate with mashed fish on rye, herring and egg on rye and rye bread ice cream. The mashed fish was similar to what I had the first visit. 

The herring was the same we can buy in the U.S. The most unique aspect is the sweet rye bread. I was hoping for something more unique. 
The rye bread ice cream tasted wonderfully like the sweet rye bread and was surprisingly good. 
We enjoyed the variety of traditional dishes served at Cafe Loki, but pretty much had everything on the menu we had any interest in trying. 

1 comment:

  1. That mashed cod is still the best cod I have ever eaten. This was also our first introduction to the artistry of Icelandic food presentation. Everything was balanced, creative, and as beautiful to look at as to eat.