Icelandic Fish & Chips is a seafood bistro that first opened its doors in the winter of 2006 by the old harbor in Reykjavík with the goal of offering fresh and nutritious food made from the best available ingredients. Moreover, we wanted to prove that when it comes to food, fast doesn’t have to be synonymous with unhealthy. Our focus is on simple and quickly-made meals, that are nonetheless made from excellent raw ingredients and of high nutritional integrity. Everything is made from scratch in our kitchen. Our guests have welcomed the initiative and keep coming back for more. With the opening of our second location in the West Village, we hope to give New Yorkers a chance to share the goods.
While Iceland is presently best known for its stunning landscapes, high quality of life and happy people, for most of Icelandic history, survival was precarious. Photogenic as they might be, the island’s lava fields and barren tundras are far from ideal for the cultivation of most staple crops. Consequently a diet rich in protein and fat evolved, with an emphasis on seafood, lamb and dairy. And while edible and medicinal herbs are scarce, since the settlement Icelanders have made the most of what grows from mountain to sea.
It then came as no surprise to us when the British documentary World’s Best Diet declared traditional Icelandic fare the global winner. Shared traits of the highest ranked countries, including Greece and Japan, are an abundance of healthy lipids, like those from olive oil and fish, and the absence of highly processed foods.
We have committed to incorporating this heritage into our menu. We make everything from scratch, stay away from bleached wheat, white sugar and refined salt, exclusively serve line caught fish from sustainable fisheries, and source our vegetables from local organic growers.
The waters surrounding Iceland are some of the coldest and cleanest in the world, and for centuries fish has been our most important food source—without it our ancestors would never have survived the long, dark winters beyond the Arctic circle. Now, due to a combination of overfishing and global climate change, many of the world’s fish stocks are threatened.
Since 1965 the Marine Research Institute of Iceland (MRII) has aimed to protect this precious resource. Through their policymaking, which aligns with FAO-issued standards and relies heavily on a Total Allowable Catch and an Individual Transferable Quota system, the government has achieved exceptional success in restoring marine health along the country’s coastline, not only in terms of individual stocks, but the ecosystem as a whole.
We buy our fish exclusively from fisheries which have been given the Iceland Responsible Fisheries seal of approval. IRF is a program which originated from a 2007 joint mission statement released by the Directorate of Fisheries, the MRII and the Fisheries Association of Iceland. It outlines an overarching commitment to maintaining marine health, is ISO accredited and has received recognition by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI).
Inspired by forward-thinking farmers—like Eymundur of the farm Vallanes in East Iceland, one of the country’s first certified organic farmers who reintroduced barley into the Icelandic diet—we aim to support sustainable and organic agriculture, and take advantage of our heritage of practically organic farming. Iceland is so small, unpolluted and isolated that mass-market farming practices failed to evolve for most products. We want to keep it that way, and support farmers, both in Iceland and elsewhere in their efforts to improve global food production by purchasing organic and fair-trade products. The slow food movement, and its entire ideology are the backbone of the philosophy behind our restaurant. One could say we prepare our food fast, but the ingredients are made slowly.
While the fish is airlifted in several times a week, we source most other ingredients locally from organic farmers in the New York area. Our Skyr, for example, is made from organic milk in upstate New York by Norr Skyr according to traditional Icelandic methods. Vegetables are, for the most part, sourced seasonally.
Our dipping sauces, as well as some of our desserts, are made from skyr—a thick and creamy, but nearly fat free, soft cheese. The health benefits of skyr have been known to Icelanders for centuries, where it has been a culinary staple for over a thousand years. Today it’s popular among people from all walks of life, but notably with athletes who value its high protein content. Reminiscent of Greek yogurt, this traditional Icelandic dairy product has taken the U.S. by storm in recent years and is now available in most grocery stores. It is also very rich in Vitamin D, which is fat soluble, which makes it an excellent match for our Omega 3 rich fish. Skyronnes is made by mixing skyr with olive oil as well as fresh herbs and spices. We also make our own malt vinegar, which is thicker and sweeter than the British kind.
All of the salt used in our kitchen is harvested from the pristine waters off of Iceland’s west coast by the company Saltverk. Björn Steinar Jónsson, its owner and founder, was inspired by the region’s history of geothermal salt production which began in the 18th century under a directive from the Danish King. Using those same traditional methods, starting with crystal clear ocean water from the Westfjords, Saltverk produces salt that is excellent for both the dinner table and the environment.
While vegetation is limited in Iceland, resourceful settlers soon discovered a wide array of herbs and greens full of important micronutrients, from lichen in the highlands to fronds of purple dulse seaweed along the coast. We incorporate these plants into our cooking, notably angelica, dulse, moss and arctic thyme. Some are also available as healthful infusions.
The organization Íslensk Hollusta, led by entrepreneurial biologist Eyjólfur Friðgeirsson, sources the herbs from the Icelandic wilderness, employing scores of retirees who handpick and dry the plants each summer.
We’re located at 28 7th Avenue South, in Manhattan’s West Village.