In my last review of Óx (https://kenscale.com/2019/11/30/ox-2/), I talked about how the Icelandic food during the recent trip to the country that my wife Jun and I went on generally lived up to the reputation of being not very good and very expensive. Of course, Óx was a notable exception (still didn’t expect that I would end up awarding it the highest score in 2019), but over time the quality of our meal started to go downhill. Maybe it’s because we were mostly traveling in the countryside after the first day in Reykjavik, and certainly the mind-blowingly good experience at Óx raised a bar that was probably too high to sustain in the first place. In any event, after we returned to Reykjavik from our day trip to Golden Circle on the second day (by the way, I highly recommend doing this trip where you can see the famed Gullfoss waterfall and the beautiful Þingvellir National Park), we headed over to Grillmarkaðurinn (“Grill Market”). When I was looking for restaurants to check out in Reykjavik, this place appeared often in best of Reykjavik lists and I figured a dinner with grilled meats wouldn’t be too risky. The dinner, however, was generally underwhelming.
Grill Market has an tasting menu option, an option called “Trip to the Countryside” (which consists of three appetizers, one main course and a dessert table), and a la carte options. The way the dishes on an a la carte basis are priced (each main course at $50 or up) makes it almost a no-brainer to choose the tasting menu or Trip to the Countryside menu (each priced at 11,400 Iceland Krona, or roughly $95, per person) from financial standpoint. We decided to go for the Trip to the Countryside option, which started with lightly smoked arctic cha with pickled fennel (decent) accompanied by spiced rye break (could’ve been warmer) served with quail egg and mustard dressing. Jun always prefers to eat duck meat in grilled slices so wasn’t too impressed that the duck came in a shredded form in the salad with spinach, mozzarella and pomegranate seeds.
The grilled pork ribs drizzled with honey were decent, but we’ve had better pork ribs elsewhere in New York City. The underwhelming quality of appetizers would’ve been all forgiven had the main course of beef tenderloin delivered. We asked for medium rare for the meat. Even though the beef tenderloin was indeed tender as the restaurant menu suggested (according to the menu, beef tenderloin is the most tender part of the beef), it surprisingly lacked the juicy, moist texture that we typically look for in a beef steak. If a restaurant calling itself Grill Market can’t produce a good steak, well I think that is a good indication of what Icelandic restaurants can accomplish with meat dishes. The assortment of desserts like chocolate cake and raspberry ice cream was just serviceable, too, and it was confusing why there are some slices of pineapple and watermelon even though I doubt they are grown in Iceland.
Getting a reservation at Grill Market wasn’t too difficult with advanced booking but the restaurant was pretty packed on a Sunday evening, especially at the basement dining room. There is full bar but the prohibitively expensive prices for cocktails and wines led us to order a glass of beer (one tip before going to Iceland: the price of alcohol can be very high here so I suggest buying a few wine bottles at the Keflavik Airport after you land like we did). The trendy setting of the restaurant with typical industrial, Scandinavian décor means more younger crowds in the dining space. Compared to the prices we paid for the meal, Grill Market is unfortunately a skippable restaurant if you are looking to dine out in Reykjavik.
KenScale: 7.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.5/10)
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 7.5/10
- Ingredients: 7.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 7.0/10
- Value: 7.0/10
Address: Lækjargata 2a, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland