Rub 23 (Reykjavik, Iceland)

(Update:In 2015, Rub 23’s Reykjavik location closed, but as of Fall 2020, the Akureyri location remains open)

Our last meal in Reykjavik was at the Reykjavik branch of Rub 23 (the original is in Akureyri). Rub 23 is basically an Asian Fusion place that pairs Icelandic ingredients with Asian ingredients (the name comes from several specialty rubs, their schtick is that you can pick your own combination of meat and rub). It’s a fairly trendy place, and one of the harder places to get into on a weekend in Reykjavik, but we managed to score a table, and opted for the tasting menu.

The tasting menu started out with a very spicy “10 Spice” Popcorn, pickled cucumbers, and a yogurt dipping sauce. These were both rather good, but this is one of those things that really shouldn’t count as a course: it’s more something to keep the table occupied while waiting for the first course.

It took a turn for the positive with course #2, which was a combination of tempura arctic char, as well as a “sushi pizza”. The char was really, really good. After this trip to Iceland, I’m almost addicted to char. I’m also usually skeptical about things on sushi menus with Mexican or Italian names (I’ve suffered from several “Nacho rolls”, for example), but this actually worked pretty well.

The next item was a sushi sampler including a spicy tuna roll, hot and sweet roll, flounder sashimi, and tuna and arctic char nigiri. Nothing here that was terribly inventive, but all of these were well-executed and the fish was of excellent quality. No real excitement… but no disappointment either.

The meal hit its stride with the next course: Icelandic Cod and a Langoustine tail. The cod was phenomenal. Perfectly cooked, tender, and flaky, with a nice rub of rosemary and thyme; I was enjoying it so much I forgot to take a picture of that half of the plate! The langoustine tail was also really good; the quality was overall about the same as in Höfn, but here they had a really pleasant rub on it and was served with a sauce that was really similar to a Mexican salsa, but worked really well here with the tail. I’ll call that course a standout success.

The main course: lamb with an Indian rub. Perfectly tender and flavorful, this combined already-excellent Icelandic lamb with a pleasant spice rub rich in cardamom. You’d think by this point I’d be getting pretty sick of Icelandic lamb, but here was another place that could prepare it really, really well.

Finally, dessert was a pleasant trio: marinated fruit in anise syrup, ginger-coconut creme brulee, chocolate ice cream. The fruit had a nice overall flavor, the brulee was a bit on the lightly cooked side, but had an impeccably good crust on it, and the ice cream had some sort of spicing to it that picked it up a notch. Overall, a good dessert.

I wasn’t wowed by Rub 23 as much as I thought I would be (although the did seriously impress me with the cod), but it was a great overall dinner, and a nice way to round out our visit to Iceland. That’s right, that’s the end of the Iceland reviews for now, since the next day we went back to Keflavik and flew back to Boston.

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