Friday, April 19, 2013

Return to the Easter Smorgasbord at IKEA

We have now gone full circle in the year and attended all of the Ikea store restaurant special one night seasonal smorgasbord dinners with the exception of the All You Can Eat Crayfish dinner in August. In mid-March we dined at the pre-Easter smorgasbord for the second year in a row. One thing that strikes us is the number of Swedish-Americans who are present dining at these meals - and enjoying every bit of it and talk of how well it compares to Swedish restaurants that they have been to in the United States, and even to the same foods that they have had in Sweden - and cooked at home by their grandmothers. When ever people of a culture that is the same as a restaurant dine there and praise the food - no matter whether it is a buffet or a menu restaurant, that indicates to me very positive things about the food. We are not Swedish so we only know that it tastes good to us - it is great to learn on the spot that it tastes right to the Swedish people who are eating it there also. And all this happens in a furniture store's cafeteria restaurant. These dinners require advanced purchase tickets and there are two seatings - one from 4 pm to 6 pm and the other from 7 pm to 9 pm. This dinner sold out weeks before. We had our tickets purchased in advance at the time of the Christmas dinner and we had the second (and our preferred) seating. There as a long line to get in at 6:30 when we arrived. The line got longer as it approached 7 pm and they started seating at 6:50 pm.

The menu at each dinner is very similar to each other with some seasonal variations. This Easter Smorgasbord was slightly different from the one we enjoyed last year. For one thing the cold shrimp that was missing last year was there in quantity this year. These were whole boiled shrimp with head on. They were not large shrimp but cocktail shrimp size. They were served with red cocktail sauce on the side. Many American diners do not like to see their food that natural and shun shrimp with the heads on. My wife who will only eat shrimp and no other seafood will not eat shrimp with the head on - even though all you need do is pinch the head easily off and what remains is the same peel and eat shrimp you get everywhere else. Many who enjoy shrimp with the head on will tell you to suck out the head as it is the best and tastiest part.  This year there was also one hearing variety missing from the three served last year. There was a hearing in cream sauce and a marinated hearing in a mustardy sweeter sauce. There was not the hearing in wine sauce as there was last year. There was also no steamed mixed hot vegetables but there was a large green tossed salad instead. There is so much else that these are not really missed. Also different from last year, the ham was served cold rather than carved hot.

Similar to last year the offerings duplicated on two long buffet tables set up down the middle of the dinning room were:

Assorted Herring
Hardboiled eggs with mayo and shrimp
Hardboiled eggs with herring roe or tångkorn
Shrimp with cocktail sauce
Marinated Salmon with Mustard Sauce
Smoked Salmon with Horseradish Sauce
Poached Salmon
Swedish Cheese
Tossed green salad
Cucumber salad
Red Beet Salad
Breads: Crispbread, several sliced breads,  Dinner rolls
Swedish Meatballs with gravy
Boiled potatoes w/dill
Swedish Ham with Mustard
Pinskov (sausages)
Gratäng Jansson
Fresh fruit
Assorted Swedish desserts and cookies
Fountain Beverages, Hot beverages

I have now come to find favorites and while I will try things I have not tried before, I concentrate my meal on those favorites. For me those are the herrings, the grave lax and smoked salmon, the poached salmon, and the Pinskov which are small sausages similar in texture and slightly similar in taste to hot dogs. I have said this in other articles. I do not like to eat cooked salmon. I enjoy raw salmon sushi and I love smoked salmon. I do not like the texture or taste of cooked salmon. I do, however, like the poached salmon that I have had here. On this dinner there were three, large, whole salmon put out on their own table.

Desserts were a bit different. There were large squares of yellow cake on a platter with a large tray each of lingonberry jam and strawberry jam next to it. There was also a large cold tray of vanilla pudding. Along with these were cookies with a chocolate filling inside an open heart and cookies with a jelly filling inside an open heart. There were also cans of whipped cream to top what you wished. I don't often take dessert, but I tried each and each was very good.  On each table there were bottles of a malt soda beverage (non-alcoholic) and at the counter there were individual cups of the same festive holiday beverage.

I left feeling overly full. There are foods here that I only get when I am at one of these, and I tend to overindulge.

What is remarkable for a restaurant that is not normally a buffet is that this little cafeteria restaurant and staff replace emptying platters immediately, are all over the dinning room taking empty dishes away from tables almost immediately, and keep the whole place spotless - and everyone has a smile and those smiles do not look just put on. Management comes around the dining room greeting and chatting with the guests. There are staff watching the buffet tables continually from beginning to end and there is never a platter empty. Toward the end of the night there is only one buffet table still open but that table is as full as it was at 7:00 pm! The food that is supposed to be hot is hot. The food that is supposed to be cold is cold. I know many full time buffets that cannot even come close to getting it this right.

During the evening there was a line at the cashier to purchase tickets for the next special smorgasbord dinner on June 15 - the mid-summer smorgasbord! This full dinner costs $12.99 per adult and $5.00 per child - now, get a free family card (available instantly at kiosks all over the store) and you only pay $9.99 per adult and $2.50 per child! Incredible! You can't buy lox (smoked salmon) in a store for less than that and here you have that and all the rest for all you care to eat.

These dinners are highly recommended and they happen at every Ikea location on the same nights. The next one is June 15 but do not wait until then to buy your tickets. Go to the Ikea restaurant and buy them at the cash register for the restaurant. And get that Family Card before you do!

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