07 July 2009

not getting the hype

The local English-language tourists-and-foreigners paper, the Grapevine, recently came out with its best-of-Reykjavík edition, ranking the best of everything from swimming pools to lobster soup. While most of them are places I totally agree with or have always meant to try, there are a few things I just must disagree with.

For example, I don't get the hype over Sægrefinn's lobster soup. The kebabs there are great, and I know that all the toursits feel like they're getting in on the authentic due to the straight-from-the-sea venue and the slightly crusty looking proprietor, but come on! That place has been advertised so heavily as the "best kept secret" that it's not a secret anymore. He has an advert in every single tourist paper and free guide and I'm sure every Lonely Planetish guidebook points out exactly where it is.

On to the soup though. I like a perfumed and creamy lobster soup and this one is frankly neither. The broth is thin, the chunks of lobster are meager, and it contains the bane of all vegetables, the green pepper. If I want lobster soup, I go to one of two places, either Fjöruborðið down in Stokkseyri (which is also hyped but in my opinion deserves it), or I'll go to B5. The latter is known as the boozin' place for all the pretty young things and the erstwhile bankers who love them but serves food in the earlier hours. Over the years the quality has gone from amazing to mediocre to confused but the lobster bisque has remained delicious. So that is where I go when I want my lobster fix.

Up next, the ice cream category. As a resident of the west side of Reykjavík, I have already spent time singing the praises of the 'hood, although I tend to forget one of the reasons many people venture my direction- the ice cream. Since Saturday ended up being unIcelandically warm, S and I decided to find out what the Big Exciting Deal was, so we beelined for ísbúðinn and its usual snaking line. He went for the large with caramel-chocolate and licorice bits, while I had the medium with caramel chocolate and Snickers. As I believe I've pointed out before, ice cream here tends to come only in vanilla, with the fancy being added to the top.

They've got excellent selection there, and when you come out with an ice cream the height of your forearm (that's just the medium), you definitely feel like you've got a good deal, but that's where the fun ends. S and I both went for the creamier of the two options available there but frankly the ice cream was not creamy, and its fast melt-rate was another indication that it just wasn't up there on the butterfat scale. The toppings were just fine and they offer amazing variety but if the base ice cream isn't bringing it to the table, what's the point? After two consecutive weekends sampling the stuff, I'm voting for the campsite service spot and tourist center in Þingvellir as my favorite ice cream. It's creamy and delicious enough to stand on its own- no frills required there.

Finally, in the hamburger category, Búllan always wins on almost everyone's fave-burger list. It's got the cute location and the charming American burgerjoint campiness but I just don't love their burgers enough to make a special effort to get them there. When I get my meat 'n bun craving I go to the burger wagon outside my local pool down the street. Less hype, more delicious. That's how it should be.


Food, she thought. said...

Green peppers are the BANE of all vegetables, taking hegemonic precedence over anything in their immediate vicinity. Major vegetable cooking fail. Bleh.

Haukur S Magnússon said...

You know, I actually totally agree with you on Sægreifinn and the lobster soup.

But we tried being democratic in our selection, and this is what people went for.

You should mail us in suggestions for next year's list. That would be well appreciated.

Best regards,

Haukur S Magnússon / Reykjavík Grapevine

ps - nice blog.

ECS said...

food: Glad someone else understands this! So many people don't understand how I can love yellow and red peppers and hate the green ones but they are SO NOT THE SAME THING.

Haukur: thanks for stopping by! I was feeling like the crotchety oldster to be ragging on that soup but it's just not taking full advantage of the delicious that is Icelandic lobster.

Evan said...

When I wrote the Frommer's Iceland guidebook two years ago, I highly recommended the Sea Baron, only to feel ashamed of myself when I returned there this year. Whatever oomph the soup once had was gone, or did I just imagine it in the first place? Was I just flattered to be invited to sit on fish barrels? In the interim the lobster portion had become more meager, and the prices had gone up, suggesting tourist entrapment. Not sure if I'll do the next edition, but hopefully the entry will be remedied.

I learned of your fine blog from Petur Sigurðsson during an overnight hike from Skógar to Þórsmörk, which I'm writing about for the next issue of Iceland Review. I'm a New Englander too, living in Worthington, MA.