Dining in the Land of Ice and Fire

Lindin Restaurant, Laugarvatn, Iceland

Written August 25, 2012

How many times have I read in a guidebook that such and such restaurant is the best for miles around only to be confronted with another “chef” over reaching with limited ingredients? Many attempt fine dining in remote locations but few succeed. Lindin restaurant in Laugarvatn (population 200) however, is one of those delightful exceptions.

I had my doubts walking into the corrugated metal clad building across from the lake. A couple with two young daughters, both wearing brightly colored bandannas, sat in the corner window facing the lake eating burgers and fries. Next to them a young Icelandic couple looked like they were out on a date. With few restaurants in the area you have to be a bit of everything to service the population.

The limited menu takes advantage of a variety of local proteins; reindeer and wild game, lamb, arctic char or brown trout, minke whale, and cod. Even in the summer vegetables consisted of mostly root vegetables and spring greens. For starters we tasted the arctic char tartare served in a glass with cucumber and spring greens glazed in a light coconut dressing,

and a hearty tomato soup. Although well done, it was the mains that really shined. Reindeer and wild game served with sautéed mushrooms in a fig reduction. When we asked the waiter what the game was, he pointed to the stuffed cormorant sitting on the bar in front of us.

While the reindeer was fork tender, cooked rare with only a hint of gaminess to remind you that you are not eating grocery store meat wrapped in cellophane, the cormorant had a livery flavor that was much stronger and gamier than we’ve tasted in other birds. The smoked cod was the highlight of the meal.

The thick filet perfectly cooked had a rich smoky flavor reminiscent of bacon balanced by the acidity of the citrusy root vegetables and barley it was served with.

The restaurant is best known for its chocolate mousse, touted in Lonely Planet as the best in Iceland if not the world. The rich dessert layers white chocolate, raspberry sauce with chunks of watermelon, and dark chocolate in a parfait glass. We were instructed to get some of each of the layers with every bite to enhance the effect. While the dessert was not too sweet and had a deep chocolate flavor, I found the mousse grainy and rather ordinary. Nonetheless, a delightful evening that we plan to repeat, albeit with other menu items, tomorrow night.

Take II

August 26, 2012

A second splendid evening at Linden restaurant. Tonight we tasted the lobster bisque and game with mixed salad to start. While the bisque was good but rather ordinary the game was an interesting assortment of smoked salmon, goose liver, reindeer paté and cured minke whale.

For mains – slices of minke whale (a lean mild flavored red meat) in pepper sauce served with carrot puree and roasted tiny potatoes; and arctic char or brown trout served over Israeli couscous and mixed root vegetables, along with a crispy pastry filled with potato puree. For dessert we opted against the over praised chocolate mousse and tried the berry skyr, an Icelandic yogurt product. Personally I preferred the refreshing mix of creamy slightly sour pudding with summer berries.

Walking back home at sunset.

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