19/03/2008

A personal restaurant review: Jómfrúin

A friend and I meet for lunch a couple of times a month, and recently we decided to try a new restaurant or café once every month, instead of always going to one of the same three places over and over. This month’s choice was Jómfrúin, a Danish-style smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) restaurant in Lækjargata in the heart of Reykjavík. Neither of us had eaten there before, but I have eaten party food from them on several occasions (at my workplace we sometimes order canapé versions of these bread dishes to serve to special guests).

The place is small and bustling with activity. The environment is in the plain café style, with old Danish advertising posters on the walls, dim lighting and paper tablecloths. The floor is tiled and there was too much noise in there for us to have a quiet conversation. The service was fast, efficient and friendly.

You can get most of the dishes in "full" and "half" portions, which is good, because a full portion is really a meal in itself and there are so many tempting things on the menu that it is nice to be able to order half portions of 2-3 dishes, rather than just one dish.

For variety I decided to order a half-portion of a dish we have never ordered in at work, namely pastrami, and a half-portion of an old favourite, the classic "Shrimp pyramid".

The pastrami was served on French (white) bread, and topped with sauerkraut, Dijon-mustard, a slice of tomato, miniature gherkins and fresh herbs. The pastrami itself was very good and the sauerkraut went well with it, but the Dijon was a bit overpowering considering the mild flavour of the pastrami.

The shrimp pyramid was served on white bread, with Thousand Island sauce on the side and a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the shrimp. The shrimp were overcooked and therefore slightly tough, but tasted good nonetheless.

My friend had a "Bombay": toasted French bread with butter, curried chicken salad, tomato, egg, smoked salmon and caviar, and the classic herring with egg: rye bread topped with butter, spice-pickled herring, egg, tomato, onion and dill. The Bombay was okay, but she did not like the herring, said it was not as good as the herring she had tasted in Denmark (at the original bar where smørrebrød was invented).

All in all, the lunch was a bit disappointing, but I would go there again, and then I would order dishes I know to be excellent: "The Veterinarian's Supper" (liver pate, port aspic, salt pork, onions and dill on rye), roast beef (on rye with tomato, egg, fried onions and remoulade), plaice (on rye with remoulade, shrimp, asparagus, smoked salmon, caviar, and lemon), smoked eel (on rye with scrambled egg, tomato and chives) or ham (on rye with spicy beetroot salad, egg and leek).

The Jómfrúin website. The website is in Icelandic, but the menu is in English as well. To see the menu (with photos of the dishes), click on the link “Aðal matseðill” and to see the choice of hot lunch courses, click on “Heitir réttir í hádeginu”.

In the summer the restaurant offers live jazz from 3 to 5 p.m., out on the patio behind the restaurant.