When I mentioned to a food-insider friend that I went to Fimbul for dinner, the first question she asked was: “Was there poop on the menu?”
“Yes. Yes there was,” I replied. “And it was great.”
It came in the form of a small, pink slice of salmon that had been smoked over dry dung in the style of an Icelandic culinary tradition, served with leek and dulse, a North Atlantic red seaweed, in a hand-carved wooden spoon.
Next to it was a bite-sized bit of ice cream flavored with birch and shaped into a leaf, with a spoonful of roe heaped on top. And next to that was another bright nibble of fennel folded around beet and licorice, flavors that invoke the fjords far better than an Instagram pic ever could.
Thus starts the prix fixe meal at Fimbul, a monthly pop-up inside the Holdfast space on Southeast 11th, hosted by the sous chefs of Holdfast and Kachka, and their crew of like-minded Nordic-philes.
There will be Björk.
Fimbul started in 2017, as the brainchild of Matt Wickstrom, now the sous at Holdfast, and his wife Aurora, who moved to Iceland shortly after they got married. There, Wickstrom says he worked four months at Dill, the only Michelin-starred restaurant on the island.
“Our heritage is Scandinavian and Matt has always been inspired by the culinary traditions of his heritage and ‘survival food,’ as he calls it,” Aurora says in an email. “He gets excited about breathing new life into ingredients, methods, and dishes that might be lost as new Scandinavian generations move away from their farming and survivalist roots.”
A trip I took last year to Reykjavik’s Dill restaurant, which also celebrates Icelandic heritage, ran about $500 for two. At Fimbul—which in early October featured four courses, snacks, two small desserts, and a flight of Icelandic Brennivin schnapps—ran $100 each, with additional wine pairings for $45. The next dinner is set for November 5, during Aquavit week.
Wickstrom’s cooking reflects the ethos of Dill, heavy with coldwater fish, game, and root vegetables—married with haute technique and sparse menu descriptions. First course: cod cheek, dandelion, beet. Wickstrom is joined in service by Kachka sous chef Sophia Jackson, who also handles the pastry and bread-making duties.
An early plate of roasted parsnip—creamy on the inside, browned on the outside—was poached in whey and rested on just-orange winter squash puree, with cured pumpkin ribbons and pumpkin that was confit in lamb fat. Rye flat bread fried in lamb added crispiness, and the whole shebang was finished with marigold and lamb jus.
Lamb appeared again toward the end, and was even bettter than the first time around—tender and spiced with clove, all spice, juniper, and seaberries. Along with sweet apples and brin scallop, it was a gorgeous display that would almost make winters spent in 24 hours of total darkness worth it.
Dessert was intentionally (and delightfully) light on sugar, a heart-shaped waffle made in a restored antique cast-iron maker, with flavors of clover, crème fraiche, and rhubarb, and a simple final bite of thick Icelandic skyr with blueberries to finish.
Wine pairings from Ataula’s Banks Cargill skewed natural, and a 2017 dolcetto from the Columbia River Gorge, its grapes infused with the wildfire smoke, paired beautifully with the similarly smoked venison.
There were a few stumbles: After being seated just before 7 pm, we didn’t get a single bite of food until 7:40, not even a consolation plate of their fantastic dulse rye bread or a sympathetic pour of wine. Also, a cod cheek in a clear broth was too tough, making what’s usually the most succulent part of a fish knife-and-fork work. And bring someone you like talking with—after the initial wait for food, we were there until 10:15.
Fimbul, which comes from an Old Norse prefix meaning “mighty,” also draws from Norway, the nearby Faroe Islands, and Finland, in true Viking fashion. I suggest you snatch a ticket next time the pop-up goes on sale.