Trip date: July 2022
Even though I had wanted to go to Greenland for a long time, this trip really came about because of a pop-up! The Faroese restaurant KOKS, which I had had the pleasure of dining at with my friend Aaron, decided to move to the beautiful Ilimanaq Lodge in Greenland while their new restaurant in Tórshavn is being built. When I saw this on Instagram I immediately texted my friend Forest in Paris and asked if she wanted to meet for dinner in Greenland!
I'll say right off the bat that this was not an easy reservation to book! Ilimanaq is a tiny village only accessible by boat (or sled dog in the winter) with no other places to stay besides the lodge. There are only 30 seats per night and there are also only 15 cabins. It was like piecing together a puzzle to get the dinner and cabin booked, the flights into Greenland, since they don't go every day, and the transfer boat to take us from Ilulissat to Ilimanaq. Similarly to when I went to the glorious Hayman Island, this transfer cost 600 DKK each way/ each person. And it wasn't fancy like the yacht in Australia! So just to get there and back was $170.
This season it looks like the cabin, dinner, and boat transfers are all included for 8,700 DKK per person.
The boat transfer is generally 30 minutes but as it goes right thru the ice flow from the Ilulissat Icefjord it can take up to 2 hours if the ice is heavy. It was a spectacular ride, and loud! You could hear the smaller ice hitting the hull of the boat as we zoomed past large icebergs.
There was one other couple on our boat and it turned out they were from the same arrondissement in Paris as Forest. Small world indeed!
Luckily we took the advice given by the lodge to only bring an overnight bag, as the transfer boat was small and getting on and off it was a scramble. We had left our suitcases at the Hotel Icefiord and arranged for the Hotel Arctic to pick them up as that is where we would be headed upon our return.
We arrived at the tiny settlement village, greeted by the lodge staff, and made our way to the check-in building which is one of the oldest buildings in town; originally built in the 1700s by the colony founder Paul Egede. Inside it is now quite hygge!
The weather was just glorious, and we had bought a cold bottle of white wine from reception, so we spent the time before dinner sitting on our deck, enjoying the sun and watching the icebergs drift by. It wasn't long before we spotted a whale and her baby! We must have watched them for 30+ minutes, it was sooooo great!
When it was time for dinner we walked the short way back to where reception was. KOKS was housed in the other oldest building, this one originally the home of settler Egede. Head chef Poul Andrias Ziska and his team greeted us as we walked in which was very fun!
We were seated in a very pretty little room with just 3 other tables. The other rooms of the house had the other diners. The sun was streaming in and we were all just steps from the ocean and the icebergs drifting by. Magical!
We chose to have the wine pairings with our 20-dish dinner, which was an additional 3,200 DKK total; there is also a juice tasting available. They started us off with a lovely champagne to accompany a trio of 1-bite starters: mattak (whale blubber) wrapped in a "taco" of wild greens, seal blood tartelette with mussel and seaweed, and this gorgeous Greenlandic halibut with horseradish and dill.
As I had eaten at KOKS before, I knew that they serve hyper-local ingredients. And since we had already spent 3 days exploring Greenland, we knew that very little grows here so we weren't surprised by the use of whale and seal. But obviously that might not be for everyone. From the KOKS website "due to our geographical location in the North Atlantic, we do not have access to a broad variety of vegetables for a good part of the year. Therefore, it is not possible for us to create a vegetarian or vegan tasting menu."
All the dishes were small, most just a bite or two, which is perfect for me. There were a handful of lovely seafood dishes using shrimp, scallops, snow crab, and salmon. This scallop and caviar dish was wonderful!
After the seafood dishes we had a series of land proteins including muskox, reindeer, and ptarmigan which is a type of cold region grouse. The presentation was a bit shocking but the meat was delicious!
Special knives, inlaid with mother of pearl images of whaling boats, were brought out for our bowhead whale course. The meat surprised me by being very gamey, not what I expected. It wasn't my favorite.
We took a little break before dessert and stepped outside for some fresh air. And of course full sunshine at 10:45pm!
Dessert consisted of 4 small bites, all very unique both in presentation and ingredients. Limpet (small sea snails) made into a sweet cream and served in their shells, looked and tasted a bit like caramel. Fermented garlic fudge, was indeed fudgy! The roasted bladderwrack cake was the only thing I actively disliked from the entire meal, it's a type of algae. And the stone bramble and blood meringues seemed too pretty (and delicious) to be made of blood!
It was a great little walk and interesting to learn a bit about the village. We learned that Ilimanaq was once a major fish processing center but the company moved to a larger city where they had access to more employees. Since towns are only accessible by boat or dogsled, no one could commute so most people were sadly out of work.