Top Asian Eateries in Reykjavik
Iceland is far away from my home. Though not entirely geographically. It’s just so far away from the freshly-made noodles being poured over by sizzling oil, or colorful vegetables being stir-fried and charred in the flames that come up from the edge of the pan, or simply the convivial noisiness and crowdedness in a typical Asian restaurant. These are only a few of the many features reminding an Asian expat of home and of the authentic Asian cuisine.
But then, I ask myself, is Iceland really that far away?
Over the past several months, my friend and I initiated a Reykjavik Asian food quest, trying to refute the stereotypes we had before. We have tried seven Asian restaurants so far and I have to say, the outcomes were quite impressive. Let me walk you through the delicious meals we tried in the list of the best Asian restaurants in Reykjavik below.
Hi noodle – Ramen and Day-long Broth in Downtown Reykjavik
A new ramen place in town, Hi noodle is slightly off the main street in downtown Reykjavik, transforming the little white Nordic house into a cozy spot for the taste buds of those who’ve been long craving a hearty bowl of noodle soup.
The restaurateur Chen Liu – a native Beijinger, a noodle lover, and a long-time Reykjavik resident – was bothered by the lack of certain diversity and authenticity in Asian food in Iceland’s capital. After years of contemplating he decided to run a place himself.
We’ve been to Hi noodle a couple of times since and tried its Tonkotsu and Dan Dan noodles, two items on its compact menu besides Miso Tonkotsu and Miso Vegan, options for those who prefer salty and tangy tastes. We were impressed by its flavourful authenticity and elegant presentation, and the dining experience was quite nice as well.
Always with an amicable smile when attending the customers, Chen and his staffer(s) shift to busy mode focusing on preparation so the hungry diners can enjoy their noodles in no time.
A bowl of the wholesome noodle soup is made of five basic elements, as Chen once told a reporter at the Reykjavik Grapevine, the broth, the noodles, the tare, the toppings, and the seasoning. For Ni noodle, Chen is especially proud of its broth that’s taking at least one and a half days to make, resulting in a very silky, thick texture and rich flavor. And the noodles are freshly made and delivered weekly from London.
Home-made gyozas (pan-fried dumplings) are also available upon asking. You are also welcome to check Ni noodle’s Facebook page for updates. On a side note, Hi Noodle is a bilingual eatery as the owner Chen speaks English and Mandarin Chinese. He even writes down on his menu board saying that he would be willing to chat with Chinese customers in their native tongue, and that’s on the house!
Address:Frakkastígur 9, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Phone number: (+354) 552 3619
Business hours: Sunday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m..
Ban Thai – Three Decade History and A Dedication to Impress
Located on the main street of Reykjavik, Ban Thai is a fine dining restaurant serving authentic, posh Thai food. The brand has been established in Reykjavik for nearly three decades, and time has well-attested its authenticity and success.
The appearance of Ban Thai stands out among the warm-colored houses as its black walls are marked by the bright green storefront, and the upstairs windows are decorated into the shape of little houses.
The owner’s creativity then extends to the menu, where you can find many signature Thai dishes. Although it may look pretty complex at the beginning since the menu has quite a lot of items without pictures, there are several popular options such as Pad Thai and Massaman curry. The level of spiciness is labeled by the number of red chili peppers.
Ever since 2009, Ban Thai has never missed a year for being listed as Iceland’s best Thai food by local newspapers. In 2011, it was also recognized as the top ten best restaurants in Iceland. Many Hollywood stars have visited this place while in Iceland.
Being rated as the best Thai food in Reykjavik, some diners have shared their mixed feelings saying that Ban Thai didn’t have warm services. It might be a universal expectation of being warmly welcomed in a restaurant, but I’d sincerely argue that not all restaurants are the same. It doesn’t hurt to experience something different as long as the FOOD IS GOOD.
The most popular orders we have collected from our friends and coworkers at Ban That go like this:
Pad Thai, and deep fried shrimp, for the popularity and commonality;
Chicken Massaman curry, a must-try for sweet and spicy lovers, but if you can’t handle very spicy food, please go with mild spicy without sacrificing the special Thai food taste.
Panang curry, compared to the previous curry dish, this one is made of Thai coconut milk which helps balance the strong curry sensation into a milder milky savor so it tastes less spicy.
These curry dishes always go well with rice (it’s usually Jasmine rice in Thai restaurants) because the grains absorb the curry flavor, and then the most popular meat option is chicken.
For soup, Tom Kha Kai has a thicker texture than Tom Yum soup, depending on your preference.
If you are a vegetarian, Massaman tofu is a good option for its well-layered flavors and fresh vegetable ingredients.
We have no complaints about the communication nor the quality. Just don’t ask for chopsticks since this is a Thai restaurant. And I’d applaud for the staff standing up for their culture telling you this is a Thai restaurant. And that’s one of the essential spirits making Ban Thai an authentic Thai food place.
Address: Laugavegur 130, Reykjavík
Phone number: (+354) 552 2444
Business hours: Monday to Sunday 6 to 10 p.m.
Hradlestin – Authentic Indian Food At a Cozy Venue
Upon entering Hradlestin, the colorful, lively, and spacious dining venue immediately draws me in. The double-floored restaurant is located close to Reykjavik’s City Hall with a rugged, wooden appearance that looks inviting.
If you are not sure what to expect, a framed menu is right on the outside wall next to the entrance.
Hradlestin mainly focuses on the India street style cuisine, with spices directly imported from India before being blended by the Indian chefs in the restaurant. It’s been 16 years that Hradlestin has kept this proud tradition.
We came in around dinner time, but the lunch menu looked really good with traditional Indian naan rolls and Indian fusion pizza. For dinner, we ordered Vegetarian thali (platter) and lamb Kurma.
With one course of coriander chutney, the thali came with three other vegetarian dishes along with raitha, garlic naan, and basmati rice. Immediately we were delighted by the wholesome, rich smell of the authentic, well-blended spices.
Icelandic lamb meat has the reputation of being the world’s best, which makes lamb Kurma’s texture softer. The taste then is enhanced by the mixture of coconut milk and Indian curry. We also recommend chicken tikka masala, another signature Indian dish.
The owner of Hradlestin, Chandrika Gunnarsson, is an Indian businesswoman who started her venture around two and a half decades ago in the world’s northernmost capital. She owns another fine dining brand named Austur-Indiafjelgid (East India). By bringing experienced chefs from different parts of Indian, Chandrika is determined to recreate the wonders of Indian cuisine in Iceland. If you are longing for some authentic Indian street food, Hradlestin is definitely the place for you.
Address: Lækjargata 8, 101 Reykjavík
Phone number: (+354) 578-3838 – 3
Business hours: weekdays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., weekends 5 – 10 p.m.
Fine – Authentic Chinese Cuisine in World’s North & New Chinese Restaurant in Reykjavik
9000 kilometers, that’s the length of the straight course between Reykjavik and the hometown of Fine’s owner. But, the ultra-long distance didn’t stop the restaurateur from bringing the Chinese cuisine to the north. The inception of Fine restaurant was to enrich the Nordic taste buds and change the landscape of Chinese cuisine in Iceland.
According to Fine’s owner Liu, a 17-year Reykjavik residence, it can be challenging to recreate the identical Chinese culinary signature in Iceland, but to bring Chinese cuisine to the remote island and to educate the difference between Chinese food and adapted Chinese fast food is too exciting to pass. She would love to be a bridge between the two different dining cultures.
The neat venue is capable of having more than 20 people to dine in. We came in looking for some signature Chinese dishes and were impressed by the variety on Fine’s menu. Deciding on what to have can be a bit hard since we wanted to try everything from noodles and buns to lamb and beef. After a bit of struggle, we settled on three: Mapo tofu, chili chicken(boneless), and stir-fry vegetables, with rice as sides.
It might look daunting since the first two dishes are both chili pepper-based, but in fact, their spicy level is completely acceptable for someone who can’t deal with spiciness. The dinner left quite a memory for us and not long after, we went back again for other dishes like sliced beef in chili oil, and chicken stew (with bones).
The owner says that many Icelanders began to like the spiciness and since then became regulars. Being accepted by the locals as well as being recognized as a fine dining restaurant makes her happy and proud, which brings us to the question of how the restaurant got its name.
Fine’s owner took a creative approach naming this establishment in downtown Reykjavik. “Fine” is a pun-intended name that has these two folds: the Chinese sound of “fine” in this very character “饭“ means rice or meal; and in the context of dining in the English speaking world, the meaning of “fine” or “fine dining” consists artistically designed menu, carefully prepared food, and elegantly presented dishes. The name nicely summarizes both the restaurant’s culture root and market appeal. It sounds like fine but we’d say it’s more than just fine!
*Some chicken dishes might have bones within, we recommend confirming with the staff before making your order.
Address: Raudararstigur 33, 105 Reykjavík
Phone number: (+354) 555 6999
Business hours: weekdays 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., weekends 5 – 10 p.m.
Krua Thai – A Casual Venue with Friendly Service
Coming down from Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik on the street of Skólavörðustígur, you will pass by a beautiful storefront with a Thai lady sculpture holding a bouquet of flowers. The window belongs to the casual style Thai restaurant Krua Thai. The owner acquired this small establishment as an express service window. A few meters further down around the corner of the block is the door to the two-floored restaurant.
Krua Thai’s menu is pretty straightforward, with most courses on rice or noodles. Visitors and locals appreciate the food’s nice portion and fresh ingredients. Like all Thai dishes, the taste turns to be on the sweet side of the flavor spectrum, and Krua Thai’s rendition is to cater to the taste buds of all continents.
We tried beef noodle soup, prawn Pad Thai, mixed vegetables with beef in oyster sauce on rice, and fried shrimp on rice. We couldn’t decipher Krua Thai’s secret ingredients but the prawns were stir-fried in the right amount of heat making its meat tender and juicy. The noodle soup is a blend of fresh paste and rice noodles, bringing out a wholesome, hot meal. The staffers were friendly, service fast.
As one of the longest-running Thai restaurants in Iceland, Krua Thai has been in Reykjavik for 16 years with a great reputation among the locals, and great reviews on Tripadvisor. An Icelandic musician Geir Olafsson once said that he has a fondness for Thai food, and Krua Thai has never gone wrong.
For a quick bite, you can never go wrong with Pad Thai or a warm bowl of noodle soup.
Address: Skólavörðustíg 21a, 101 Reykjavík
Phone number: (+354) 551 0833
Business hours: Weekdays 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m., Saturdays 12:00 – p:30 p.m., Sundays 5 – 9:30 p.m.
Vietnam Restaurant – Tasty and Authentic Diner with Fusion Dishes
One of the oldest Vietnamese establishments in Reykjavik is the Vietnam Restaurant. On the main street of Laugavegur in the capital, the one-floored restaurant is inside an ivory building, with large windows and an salmon-pink antique wooden door. Their menu has quite a lot of options featuring popular pho (rice noodles) dishes. The decent portion is friendly for tourists who want a filling meal.
The tasty dishes we have tried were made with lemongrass mixed in the marinade sauce. As one of the signature ingredients in Vietnamese food, lemongrass brings in fresh, multi-layered tastes, making the marinade special.
For the two dishes we ordered, beef deluxe soup was very flavorful with fresh ingredients and quality rice noodles, and in lemongrass lamb chops the chef was able to make the best out of the Icelandic lamb resulting in a unique fusion course by combining Icelandic lamb chops and complex Asian cooking methods together.
Dining in restaurants in downtown Reykjavik can be expensive, but Vietnam Restaurant’s pricing is reasonable for the quality food, friendly service, great space, and nice atmosphere. And the awesome views of the main street in Reykjavik is definitely a plus. Several vegan options are available as well.
Address: Laugavegur 3, 101 Reykjavík
Phone number: (+354) 588 6868
Business hours: Weekdays 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m., Saturday 12 – 10 p.m., Sunday 5 – 10 p.m.
On a side note, there’s another Vietnamese restaurant that’s new-in-town named VietExpress, located a bit outside Reykjavik’s downtown area. The simple menu has all the signature Vietnamese dishes at affordable prices. Right now it’s the only place in Iceland offering bubble milk tea, with four flavors, original , taro, matcha, and coconut.
Chinese Flavour – A Photogenic Food Truck With Chinese Street Delicacies
In the form of a food truck, Chinese Flavour is a newcomer in Reykjavik’s dining scene. Established in October 2018, the food truck finds itself a neat spot near Hlemmur, the main bus station in Reykjavik neighboring the most popular food court filled with people looking for a bite.
The silvery metallic truck is very easy to spot at a place surrounded by colorful houses. If you are interested in Chinese street food, we are happy to tell you that this is the only vendor in town offering options such as Chinese crepes ( salty crepes with meat), homemade pork burgers, and lamb skewers. With four items on the simple menu, the other one is homemade dumplings, which is also seen at other Chinese food establishments.
The restaurateur is from Beijing, the capital of China. After nearly two decades living in Reykjavik, she started to miss the small things about Chinese food, particularity the street eats because there isn’t any in Iceland. To ensure authenticity in terms of texture and taste, she herself makes the buns, stews the pork, skews the lamb, mixes and sautes the staffings, and wraps the dumplings. The tasks often begin in the early morning of the day before the truck is open for business.
If you’ve never tried these types of Chinese street food, something delicious is to be expected. The lamb skewers are freshly done in an electric oven ensuring the best texture. We especially liked the crepes for its sauced egg-layer and crispy inside. You can see how the crepe is being made as you wait outside the truck watching your order being prepared. Quite a fun experience on a day of nice weather in Reykjavik.
Address: Hverfisgata 119, 105 Reykjavik
Phone number: (+354) 588 6868
Business hours: Monday to Sunday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
More To the List In The Future
Our quest hasn’t ended yet and there are many other restaurants we would like to try later. Besides the Chinese restaurants, authentic Thai cuisine, delicious Japanese noodles, there are many more restaurants in downtown Reykjavik that we’ve been planning to explore. Please check back for updates!
Spending time traveling you often spend much of your money of food especially when traveling to Iceland. Iceland can be quite an expensive place but there is a way to do it on a more cheaper matter.
Eating in Reykjavík can be expensive. We are here to help! These bargain meals are great options for budget friendly eating in Reykjavík.