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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sjavargrillid

Dining out gets pricey in Iceland. I found that there wasn't much of a price differential between an average place and an upscale restaurant. I had read about Sjavargrillid and decided to have dinner there. The bonus was a 10% discount if you have the City Card.


Sjavargrillid is located at Skolavoerdustigur 14 in the center of town.


We chose to go with The Big Grill Party tasting menu for ISK10,900. We got an amuse bouche of Scallops, Bacon-wrapped Dates, Parsnip, Burnt Paper Onion, Dill Snow and Fennel Cream. There were 3 of us and all 3 servings were presented on the same plate. The scallops and dates were quite good but the rest didn't add much to the dish.


The next course was Cured Sheep Fillet, Fried Portobello Mushrooms and Beets. The sheep tasted like prosciutto. The mushrooms were a little greasy because they were fried. The beets were shaved and raw--a little too crunchy for my taste.


Cured Arctic Char, Buttermilk Foam, Apples, Radishes and Chives. The char tasted like gravlax. The kitchen delivered 3 plates and we thought they were huge portions. We realized when the next course was delivered and it was only 1 plate with 3 servings, just like the first 2 courses, that this was an error. Since this was my favorite dish, I didn't mind the error. 


Fried Cod Cheek, Kale, Bok Choy and Remoulade Sauce. The cod was well prepared but the rest did not compliment the fish.


Salted Cod with Broccoli, Grapes and a brown sauce that I couldn't identify. The fish was again good but the rest of the dish didn't compliment.


Grilled Perch with Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot. 


Fried Lamb, Celery Root, Baby Corn. The lamb was very good and not too gamey.


Grilled Lamb, presented on a mini hibachi. I liked the smoky flavor and the lamb was tender.


Intermezzo of raspberry sorbet.


Dessert--Strawberry Sorbet, Strawberries, Creme Brûlée, Sorrel Ice (the green stuff) with dollops of Whipped Cream. This was a lot of dessert and none of it worked together. 

We left very full and most of the dishes were quite tasty. The meal was definitely not Michelin-grade though. They need to work on the combination of flavors, presentation (I was quite surprised that we weren't given individual portions) and service.



2018 01 25

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Golden Circle Tour

We took a full day tour of the Golden Circle. It was a beautiful sunny day.


Our tour left at 9:30 am when it was still dark. Sunrise was at 10:30 am.


The first stop was Pingvellir National Park, 40 km northeast of Reykjavik. This is where the fissured rift valley formed from the meeting of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.


This is also where the 1st Viking Parliament (Alpingi) was established in AD930.


The law speaker recited the existing law to the assembled parliament from Law Rock which faced this rock formation.


Pingvellir was where we came to see the Aurora Borealis the night before. We were sheltered behind the brown wall. It looked so different during the day.


As we drove through the Icelandic countryside, we could see steam from thermal springs.


Our second stop was at Gullfoss, Iceland's most famous waterfall. This is a double cascade and portions of it were frozen in January.




Third stop was Geysir, the original geyser. Unfortunately, it's not very active now.


At the same site, Strokkur is the more reliable geyser now, spouting every 5-10 minutes. Prior to spouting, you'll see a turquoise bubble.


It shoots pretty high.


Our final stop was at Skalholt Church.


Again a very austere interior. The church is known for its free Baroque concerts in the summer.

This was a full-day tour and we returned to Reykjavik at 5:30 pm. The stops weren't very long and we didn't have time for lunch. You would have to forego seeing some of the sights if you took the time to get lunch. We had brought snacks and were happy we did.



2018 01 25

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Northern Lights

We signed up for a tour to see the Northern Lights. We chose Gray Line tours. They will pick you up at your hotel but if you're staying in the center of Reykjavik, they are not allowed to stop to pick you up so there are designated bus stops throughout town where they can pick you up. The closest stop to us was Stop #3, just a 2 block walk from our apartment.

The night we signed up for the tour, the prediction for Northern Lights was minimal but they were still optimistic. We drove to Pingvellir National Park, a 40 minute drive outside Reykjavik. It was freezing that night and the sky was relatively clear but there was no Northern Lights activity. There was no place to sit so standing for 2 hours was tough. There were picnic tables nearby and if we had brought some plastic sheets as well as towels, we could have sat on the frozen benches. After 2 hours, we gave up and drove back into town.

If you don't get to see the lights, they will take you out again for free. We chose to go again the next night. The prediction was a little better--it was a 3 instead of 1.  http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/


We drove to the same park and when we arrived, we could already see the green streaks. It wasn't as brilliant as what we saw from the plane but it was better than nothing.


Pretty soon, there were violet, blue and yellow lights as well. It was pretty good and everyone was oohing and aahing. I thought that the dancing lights were time lapse photography but soon enough, the lights started to dance. It was an amazing display and made the whole trip worthwhile.

My sister had an iPhone X and was able to take these pictures on the phone. She found out later that there is an app to take Northern Lights pictures but she didn't know about this earlier.

I did bring a tripod and a Panasonic Lumix point and shoot camera. It was hard to take pictures with the tripod because it was so windy that the tripod kept tipping over.



2018 01 23 & 24

Monday, February 19, 2018

Icelandic Street Food

One of the highest rated Reykjavik restaurants by TripAdvisor is Icelandic Street Food.


It's located on Laekjargata in the center of town. If you take any tours, it's near Stop #3.


Seafood Soup--ISK1390 or ISK 1890, if served in a bread bowl. This was quite rich and had plenty of shrimp and mussel.


Lamb Soup. This was also very tasty. Very different from the Lamb Soup at Restaurant Reykjavik. This didn't have tomatoes.

The owner is very gregarious and engages his customers. It's no wonder he gets such high ratings. It's also very good soup and reasonably priced, especially since you can have as much refill as you want. There is no liquor license, but the owner will write a note for you to get a free beer two doors down at his bar. He also had free coconut macaroons and lemon cake for dessert. When we were there, he had fermented shark for people to taste. It smelled like ammonia and I couldn't bear to put it in my mouth. I did watch others try it and gag.



2018 01 24

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Arbaer Open Air Museum

Another museum covered by the City Card is the Arbaer Open Air Museum.


It's outside of the city center and it's easiest to take a bus, which is also covered by the City Card. Pick up a bus map from the TI. From the city center, we took Bus #6 to Artun then transferred to Bus #5. It stopped at Baejarhals. From there, we walked down the street and followed the signs to Arbaer. Cross the main road using the underground pass. We had hoped to take Bus #24, which appeared to stop in front of Arbaer but it didn't seem to stop at Artun.


Admission to the museum is ISK1600. I thought this was quite a good museum and worth the price of admission if you don't get the City Card. If you're short of time in Reykjavik, you may not have the time for it since it is harder to get to the museum. The museum is near the Laugardalslaug Pool so you could hit both. Plan on spending at least 2 hours here.


It's an open air museum. Representative Icelandic buildings have been brought from all over the island and installed here. Actors in period costumes tell the story of Icelandic culture.




Near the entrance, this entire building is dedicated to Icelandic culture. I found the section on Iceland through the decades in the last century particularly interesting.



2018 01 24

Saturday, February 17, 2018

More Sights in Reykjavik

Other sights around Reykjavik:


Graffiti is prominent everywhere in Reykjavik. Most of it is very artistic.


A sportsbar doubling as a husband daycare center in the center of Old Reykjavik.


There are sculptures everywhere.


Surprisingly, there are a few green parks in town. This was a Christmas tree with a puffin ornament in one of the parks.


Park Austurvollur in the center of town.


Trolls are prominent in Icelandic folklore and you'll see statues of them throughout town.


Culture House--another museum covered by the City Card. This one can be seen in 30 minutes if you don't stop to read the signs. 


Domkirkjan--the Reykjavik Cathedral. It's located near the TI.


There are free concerts on Tuesday nights from 8:30-9 pm inside the cathedral.


Another austere interior.



2018 01 24

Friday, February 16, 2018

Breakfast at Sandholt

Another popular place for breakfast is Sandholt. They have a bakery for take-out but also a sit-down area.


Sandholt is located at Laugavegur 36, on the main shopping street.


Pastries are pricey but not out of the ordinary for Iceland.




Our breakfast included pretzel sandwich with lox--ISK1390, Ham & cheese croissant--ISK650 & Cinnamon Roll with Brown Sugar--ISK465. All were good but the cinnamon roll was the best deal.



2018 01 24