TravelNoise: Icelandic Fish & Chips, New York City
Is it just us or is Nordic food the cuisine of 2017? Defined by fresh fish and lots of Skyr (among other elements), Icelandic cuisine, in particular, is one we should not discount or forget. Case in point: Icelandic Fish and Chips, the mothership, the restaurant that officially turned me onto Icelandic fare.
Situated right on the main drag of 7th Ave., the clean exterior of the restaurant indicates you’re about to get a true Icelandic experience, inside and out. Upon walking in, my guest and I noticed a pattern of skylights, stone and white walls, a marble bar and fur draped throughout the two-story loft. Compartmentalization plays a crucial key in the layout, boasting a wine cellar on the second floor confined in glass and a sleek, neat bar spanning the first half of the place.
Our host greeted us warmly and immediately offered us a signature cocktail, the Videy ($16), which is made from Icelandic liquor Brennivín, lemon and dill oil. The flavors were intense and distinct, but together they created something sweet, refreshing and herbaceous. Our host mentioned that these sensations would be present throughout the entire meal, which we were definitely pleased to hear.
The menu is fairly straightforward: you come for the fish and chips, right? After sorting through the appetizers, entrees and list of available fish with flavour profiles, we decided to put our fate into our host’s hands. She warned that many dishes were to follow. That’s never concerning to me unless they expect us to finish it all, in which case I try my best anyway.
First up: the fish balls ($13), which reminded us slightly of crab cakes and served with dill sauce. They were perfectly crisped and flavourful inside. Then came the smoked arctic char with cucumber salad ($16), which involves char raised in an Icelandic mountain stream. It’s cold-smoked and served with the salad, tarragon Skyronnes and crispbread (an Icelandic delicacy — their punchy version of a cracker). The char was buttery and smoky and not too overpowered by the dill. To round out the appetizers, we got the Nordic shrimp salad with more crispbread ($14). The mixture was creamy and tender while the crispbread lent a good texture to the dish.
Let’s talk the fish and chips — we know, finally, right? So here’s the deal with that: the online menu currently features nine fish options with a flavour profile next to each one. We were recommended the rose fish ($13), which is firm and earthy, and the Atlantic wolffish ($13) which is dense and mildly sweet. The fish were accompanied by an order of onion rings ($9), mesclun greens ($8) and mango salad ($10). The unique spelt batter on the fish was delicate, light and flakey and worked particularly well with the dense fish. The rose fish was a little lighter than the wolffish, which also had a fishier taste, but both were excellent. The flakey batter translated right onto the onion rings while the two salads balanced out the dish.
Our host brought us over two wines to enjoy with our meal: Gota Wine’s Vinho Verde “Azahar” ($11) and Schloss Goldsberg’s Cistercian Rosé ($13), which had subtle sweetness and complemented the fish perfectly. We were barely through our last dishes when our host insisted we try a sampler of their desserts: Flourless chocolate cake with Skyr ($10) and Icelandic biscotti with Angelica and moss ($4). The chocolate cake was rich and dense and balanced out by the tart Skyr while the biscotti kept us totally grounded.
We’d eaten a lot of food, but somehow we didn’t feel as full as we thought we would. Perhaps it was the trick of Icelandic fare: the lightness, the simplicity. Whatever it was, we were happy we didn’t have to be rolled out of the restaurant. I’d like to check out the restaurant’s twin in Reykjavik where I’m sure the experience only gets better. Icelandic Fish and Chips has convinced me that I need to seek this cuisine more often. And trust me, I will.
Address: 28 7th Ave S, New York, NY 10014
Telephone Number: (646) 922-8473