Sunday, July 14, 2019

Restaurant Mamartut - Ilulissat, Greenland

Restaurant Mamartut in Ilulissat, Greenland is owned and run by Kim Pederson and his wife who are originally from Denmark. I targeted it before our trip as a restaurant I had to visit because of its focus on local cuisine, and in particular, its Greenlandic tapas that give you the opportunity to taste small portions of many foods at one sitting. I made reservations for four one evening and then made special arrangements for a special lunch for our group of ten so that we could celebrate the birthday of one of my partners. In that process I called Kim several times.
Restaurant Mamartut

Susan inside. A stretched-out seal skin is on the wall. 
Restaurant Mamartut is located on the eastern edge of town near the old helicopter landing pad, where many of the village dogs are kept and where the entrance to the Ilulissat Icefjord UNESCO World Heritage Site is found. 

Our dinner for four included my wife, Judy, and one of my partners and his wife. Greenlandic tapas must be ordered by at least two people, so Judy graciously agreed to join me in my order.

This packed-full tray is our assortment of tapas. It is an amazing array. 
Snow crab legs. By far the best I've ever had. They were cool and salty, just like Alaskan king crab, my favorite food. We never get them anywhere near this size in the U.S.
I believe this is baked cod, heavy on the liver. Smooth, very moist and with an unmistakable liver taste, although not over-bearing. Another favorite. 
Mattak, or '"mattaq" like crackling" on the menu. This is fin whale skin (the little black band along the edge) and blubber, the tan portion. It has been thinly sliced and then deep-fried. I had another variation of mattak at the Hotel Arctic later which was raw, much thicker and had substantially more skin and was all but inedible. This was a genius preparation. It was crispy, very easy to eat and all it needed was a tad bit of salt.  
Smoked fin whale meat. Tender, much like beef but with just a very, very mild fishy taste. Very good. 
Muskox meat in its own gel and wrapped in pastry. This was somewhat of a disappointment. The pastry over-shadowed the muskox meat, but a very creative way to set it apart from a large platter of items. 
Smoked lamb with spinach in a triangular wedge. Another ingenious way to set apart the lamb on a tray of goodies. Very moist, mild and pleasing with no gaminess at all.  
Shrimp caught near Ilulissat, along with halibut, one of the main trade items for the local economy. Very moist and mild. 
A salmon slice embedded in a smoked salmon paste/gel. Another creative preparation. Very mild, so mild that it did not have much taste. I'd read that Greenland salmon is very fatty and impossible to get outside of Greenland. So with high expectations I was a little disappointed that the taste was not more opulent. John, my partner, ordered a salmon filet and gave me a taste. It was over-cooked. My theory is that Greenlandic people are so used to eating smoked and dried food that they do not even consider the concept of rare. 
Smoked halibut, better than other halibut preparations. 
Marinated caplin, another of my favorites, if not my favorite. Caplin, or capelin, is a small fish in the smelt family preyed on by larger predators, such as larger fish, seals and even puffins. Much like marinated herring, but not as fishy.  
Reindeer, or caribou, in a loaf that included nuts and some grains and vegetables. The caribou meat was substantially "watered-down" by added ingredients and the taste was very mild. A little bit of a disappointment for me as I was hoping to eat "pure" caribou. 
Fried caplin. Did not stand out as either great or not great. I believe it was headless (I would have noticed the head). Basically a big sardine. 
I believe this is pickled halibut. Another better way to serve the tasteless halibut which I do not like served in the normal baked way. 
I'm guessing now. I believe this is what was advertised as "catfish," which would be Atlantic wolffish, aka Atlantic catfish or wolf eel. It did not stand out, one way or the other. Judy had a wolffish filet at the Hotel Arctic, as a main course, which was tremendous. 
Hot smoked mackerel (a guess). Mild, warm and nice mouth feel. 
Halibut with licorice and curry (another guess). Did not stand out. Unfortunately, we did not have a lot of time to eat. Our waitress initially identified all of the items on the tray, but there were so many that my memory has failed me on some of them. It became a matter of identifying the list of tapas with the items on the platter. 
Crowberry-apple cake. Crowberries are somewhat tart, a local berry picked from the tundra, and this was cakey and not very sweet. It was fun to try, but not a favorite. 
We came back with our group of ten for lunch to celebrate one of my partners 60th birthday. We'd selected our lunch items in advance and Kim kindly agreed to open up a half hour early to let us eat in time to catch a later flight to Copenhagen. Judy and I shared a number of dishes. 
This seafood platter had many of the items from our earlier tapas dinner. Note the salmon implanted in the smoked salmon gel, the shrimp, smoked halibut, snow crab legs and marinated caplin. 
It also included lumpfish roe, which is not something I particularly like. It is not as salty or flavorful as caviar or even salmon roe. I've even had it kind of bitter, although this was not bitter. 
Scallops. Cold and slightly savory. 
I'm guessing that this is Atlantic wolffish covered with seawood or a local green plant I don't recall the name of. Very mild. 
I'm unsure of what this is. It looks a little like the fermented fin whale blubber I had in Iceland, but I'm pretty sure that is not right. Perhaps halibut. Very mild. 
Unknown, kind of mustardy and good. 
The real find at lunch was fish soup. The broth itself was dark and flavorful, actually amazing. No idea what gave it the dark color or taste, but was probably thickened a little bit with flour. It included some shrimp and mussels in the shell and pieces of shrimp. 
Fish soup
More of the caribou loaf accompanied by some caribou gel, crowberries and sour cream. 
Caribou loaf
Fin whale meat and mattak, shared with the group. 
Smoked fin whale and fin whale mattak. 
A muskox burger with melted cheese, cabbage and some onion. There was lots of musk ox meat, a little bit of it over-cooked. The muskox was mild and I gravitated towards the pieces with melted cheese which made it a little more moist. 
Muskox burger
Restaurant Mamartut may have been the experience I most looked forward to in our visit to Greenland. It is a culinary treasure. 

1 comment:

  1. There were so many dishes that it is hard for me to remember each one, but I believe my favorite from the first meal was the smoked lamb with spinach, and my favorite from the second meal was definitely the fish soup.