When I picked up the book Where Chefs Eat, I was stoked because it actually contains a few entries on Reykjavik. After flipping through the Iceland section and conferring with other websites and reviews, I knew it: We were going to eat at Dill or die trying.
So, we looked into it and made reservations online far in advance – which we were glad that we did because the restaurant is only open Wednesday through Sunday and is VERY small. In fact, with such long days of sunshine during June and July, we had to carefully plan our activities that day so that we got back in time to get ready and make it to the restaurant.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by cheerful waitstaff and invited to hang our coats on the coatrack, then seated at the table just inside the door by the windows. The place is, as I said, miniscule. I was amazed that we got a reservation with no problem on May 23 for our Wednesday, July 1 dinner. The open kitchen is flanked by a bar where diners can eat at a counter, with some banquettes and tables along the exterior of the room. There was a large window at the back and some natural light flowed into an otherwise dark room, lit by romantic long tapered candles (not the LED kind, which is so ubiquitous now). It wasn’t so romantic that you can’t come eat here with friends – but it was a lovely atmosphere and set the tone for the fine dining experience which we were about to enjoy.
The menu changes often based on what ingredients are available and diners are able to choose between 3, 5, and 7 courses, with or without wine pairings. One is also able to start the meal with a glass of champagne. Of course, we opted to start our meal accordingly and also sprang for the 7 course tasting menu. As an excellent touch, each meal starts with 6 amuse bouches.
Which basically means that we had a 13 course tasting menu, paired with 7 wines.
Our friendly server was pretty excited that we were going for the full Dill experience. We settled in and were ready. The bread arrived, and we excitedly chattered about our day that we spent driving the Golden Circle, stopping at the Kerid Crater on the way back.
Our first amuse bouche was presented and, though looking like something I could actually prepare myself in my kitchen at home, it was a hit. A ton of flavor was packed into these little pickled carrot sandwiches.
While we sipped on our champagne and compared notes on what our favorite part of the day was, the servers removed and served new plates of the first few courses at a good pace. It wasn’t rushed at all, and by the fourth “appetizer” we had nearly forgotten what our mains would be.
The second “app” was one of my favorites – it was like an Icelandic cheese bomb in the very best way. Dill, you already had my heart.
The next starter really blew my mind. It looked like a cracker, but instead was a dehydrated, fried mussel with toasted paprika aoili and chives. It was so packed with flavor, but wasn’t too fishy at all.
I really enjoyed this tomato “soup” of sorts. It was so flavorful and fresh, but innovative and interesting both to look at and to eat.
The next course arrived and the color of the little beggars’ purses were so extraordinary that I didn’t want to eat one. Of course, that didn’t actually stop me. The bite-size dumplings were dense but not heavy, and, naturally, delicious.
Another standout, our next dish (Still a starter! Seriously!) was a traditional Icelandic dried catfish, shredded and sprinkled over some burnt butter, then sprinkled some more, and covered with a dash of dill and some more burnt butter. We practically licked our wooden bowls clean, it was so good! Dill 6: Us 0.
Now, I’m going to stop right here and say that even if our meal consisted of just the first six snacks and three additional courses, we would have been more than satisfied. There was a wide range of ingredients, methods and presentations where I felt like we had seen a good amount and tasted an array of good stuff. But, it wasn’t over. Not even a little.
The Real Meal – The Real Deal
The first courses were finished and the first “real” course arrived, along with the first wine pairing. However, we discovered that the first wine as not going to be a wine at all – it was a beer. A beer that had been made especially for the restaurant – aptly named “Dill“, infusing a birch liqueur made by the owner of the restaurant in collaboration with the Foss Distillery, who make the Björk liqueur, was first up. To be honest, I was a little disappointed that our first wine was a beer. But, that changed.
The beer was actually really good. It was medium-bodied and not too heavy – even for my non-beer-drinking friend.
We were then given our salted cod, which looked pretty raw. But, it was moist and savory, not slimy. The parsnip and the apples were amazing and lent an earthy, interesting dimension to an otherwise sea-centric dish.
Alas, then the wines began to pour and my fears that there might have been a bait and switch on the wine situation were allayed. We started with a crowd-friendly varietal – a Pinot Grigio – which had a nice deeper straw color and somewhat more medium-bodied feel to it than some pinots. It benefited from accompanying food and I don’t know if it would be great to drink on its own. It had a really long finish and stood up well to the richness of our next dish.
Sooo… I’m not a huge fan of mussels. I never look at a menu and say “Oooh, that mussel dish looks amazing.” or “Totally having the moules-frîtes.” That just doesn’t happen. As a result, it’s safe to assume I wasn’t exactly stoked to be getting not one, but two! dishes featuring the oval-shaped mollusks in one sitting. The first mussel dish was a hit with me, so I wasn’t too concerned when our next course arrived. But I still wasn’t excited.
These mussels were so tender, not rubbery and were so mildly flavored (without being bland), and the cream and parsley sauces they swam in were amazing. Dill, you made me like mussels more than I thought I did. Another “W” in your column!
The next wine had probably what is the ugliest label on a wine that I’ve seen in recent history. It was kind of forgettable. But, the organic Sauvignon Blanc washed down our next course pretty well – an Arctic Char. I was pretty excited to have Arctic Char this close to the Arctic, because I’m a big nerd. But anyway…
If I could make one sweeping generalization, it’s that the chef really enjoys pairing really earthy ingredients with fish and other seafood ingredients. But it works. Really well.
Continuing our theme, our next wine was also of French origin, but this time it was of the red persuasion.
Chorizo-type meats are a quick way to ingratiate yourself with me, and the monkfish finished with a lamb chorizo cubes, celeriac and angelica – an herb native to arctic lands like Iceland, won me over. I always love the meaty texture of monkfish and this one did not disappoint. It was a really nice transition between the fish dishes and the meat to come.
It was on to another red, this time, an Italian Rosso di Montalcino, with big cherry aromas and some other red fruits, to boot.
The next course, our final “entree” course, was savory, shredded beef cheeks with onions two ways, potatoes and thyme, as well as a paper-thin wafer. It was one of my favorite things of the night, notwithstanding that it wasn’t seafood. The beef cheeks weren’t fatty or gelatinous, which I’ve found at other places, and the portion was just the right size for our ever-expanding stomachs.
When our waiter brandished the bottle of 30-year old Tawny port, I nearly rolled my eyes in rapture. The last time I had this aged beauty was at Restaurant Jezebel in Austin, Texas in 2010 (yes, oddly specific, but a memorable meal!).
The tawny goodness of the port played off the burnt bay leaf ice cream and brought out the sweetness in the prunes and pungency of the Icelandic cheese known as ísbúi.
As if we hadn’t had enough of the delicious frozen stuff and tasty dessert wines, our plates were cleared and our next course and pairing were teed up.
The organic prosecco bubbles from Veneto, the Zanotto Col Fondo, paired perfectly with our final dessert course, a creamy Icelandic frozen yogurt – known as skyr, prepared with rhubarb and chervil (an herb related to parsley). The natural notes of the local flora complemented the slightly sweet, slightly sour skyr.
At the end of the meal, the authentic Icelandic theme was carried through to the end when we were presented with the check. The bill was inserted in an Icelandic wool and leather wallet of sorts. I’m a real sucker for creative check presentation, and it was a nice touch.
Dill, I’m going to keep coming back for you when I’m in Reykjavik. I might not do the all-out balls-to-the-wall menu again, but I’m going to stop by and eat all your food. I’m even going to go to your pizza place next door. I bought the Björk birch liqueur to bring home. I’m what you might call a “superfan” now. You’re not getting rid of me!
How to get There
Getting to Dill is super easy. It’s in the center of downtown Reykjavik just minutes away from the busier streets and the Harpa concert hall.