Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Iceland: Saegreifinn (Sea Baron)

Besides Baejarin Beztu, the other name I kept coming across on Chowhound posts about Iceland was Saegreifinn, a.k.a. Sea Baron. This casual restaurant is more fish shack than fine dining. Customers order at the counter then sit on narrow fish barrels along communal benches. Still, even Mark Bittman has called out Saegreifinn for its outstanding lobster soup.

The entire dining area is tiny. At the time I went, there weren't very many customers and people rotated in and out fairly rapidly. I imagine during high tourist season in the summer, the place is packed to the gills. As with almost anywhere else in Iceland, the proprietors speak perfect English. Their English was so good in fact that I frequently forgot to practice the Icelandic phrases I picked up for the trip. I did however, satisfy my goal to be able to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that erupted last year.

I believe Saegreifinn serves their famous lobster soup year-round, but check the display case for the local catch of the day on kebabs. The soup has a Nordic flavor profile, rich and hearty with some slight sweetness and ample amount of lobster. The locally fished lobster is smaller than we're used to, but sweeter in taste. It actually reminded me more of crawfish. I've been told it is specifically langoustine. Indeed it does have that same taste.

From the fridge, we picked out a halibut kebab. The waitress brought the kebab to the back to be grilled while we warmed up with the soup and heaps of crusty bread. The soup and the complimentary bread would be enough to make a light lunch, but we were about to head for the airport. While the fish was certainly fresh, it lacked the flavor of the outstanding Pacific halibut I had in Alaska.

While in my trip, I had plenty of delicious food, I didn't partake in much of the exotic fare. I avoided hakarl, the Fear Factor-esque fermented shark that is described as licking a urinal. I also didn't have reindeer or puffin, which I hear tastes very fishy. I did however, eat a whale kebab. Iceland and Japan are two of the few countries that still whale. They are also two countries where you can find whale on the menu. The texture is easy to describe--tough, like an overcooked steak. The taste is much odder. Imagine a cross between tuna and beef, or if a cow was only fed a diet of fish. Whale is one of those things you can say you've tried, but you're not likely to go back.

Saegrefinn (Sea Baron)
Geirsgata 9, 101 Reykjavik
The restaurant is located in the Northwest of Reykjavik by the harbor.



Guðmundur said...

Good review!
The lobster that is used here is called langoustine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langoustine)

"Iceland and Japan are the only two countries that still whale."
Are you 100% sure in that statement?
I'm pretty sure the Faroese, Norwegians, Greenlanders, Russians, Alaskans (!) and various indigenous island populations would disagree!

Aaron said...

Thanks for the advice, Guðmundur! I've updated my review accordingly.