Saturday, December 14, 2013

It is Christmas time and that means its time for IKEA's Julbord Smorgasbord!

I have written about these dinners for the past few years. The IKEA stores celebrate the holidays and the summer with a special Swedish buffet dinner in there store restaurants for one night each. There is a Christmas dinner, an Easter dinner, a Midsummer dinner, and a special Crayfish feast dinner in August. I just returned from the  Christmas smorgasbord and it was great as always.

I have often said that a restaurant that does not normally do buffets rarely can pull off a buffet dinner well. The IKEA restaurants (or at least the IKEA restaurant in Hicksville, NY) does an excellent job at converting what is an everyday cafeteria to a buffet, rearranging the dining floor to accommodate two large buffet tables with a dessert and cheese bar to the side and an additional smaller buffet table for breads and meat, plus being able to seat hundreds in two seatings. This IKEA has also added a band and small dance floor and has made the dinner into a real holiday party with song and dance - and for Christmas a presentation of St. Lucia (from who the holiday custom of candles worn in a circle on the head) and a visit from Santa Claus! This non-buffet restaurant does this smorgasbord dinner as if they do it every day. They don't, but you would think that they do - and they do it far more professionally and better than other non-buffet restaurants do when try to have a buffet - and IKEA does it better than some every day buffet restaurants.

The first seating is held from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm and the second seating is held from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Tickets for these dinners must be purchased in advance and they sell out early - months before the day of the dinner. The price is incredible - the regular price is $12.99 all included per adult and $4.99 per child, BUT if you have an IKEA Family Card which is free at kiosks all over the store, the price becomes $9.99 per adult and $2.49 per adult. And the food is good!

We had a great time. The food choices from one season's smorgasbord to the next vary only slightly. Many of the same items will be found at each of the dinners. Some items are substituted with foods for that specific season or holiday and all are traditional Swedish foods. At this Christmas dinner there were a few things that we had not seen for some of the dinners but had had at others, and there were a few new ones added. Here is what was on tonight's buffet -

Three different types of herring - herring in wine, pickled herring, and herring in a cream mustard sauce
Hard boiled eggs with shrimp
Gravad Lax with mustard sauce
Smoked salmon with horseradish sauce
Whole poached salmon
Cucumber salad
Assorted Swedish cheeses
Liverwurst pate
Red Beet salad
Red Cabbage
Mashed potatoes
GRATANG Jansson - shredded potatoes with cheese and herring
Meatballs with lingonberries
Swedish ham served warm with mustard
Prinskov sausages (sauteed) - these ran out early
Crisp bread
Swedish spiced bread (an "S" shaped roll with a cake like taste - tradional to Christmas in Sweden
Swedish Rice pudding
Elderflower cupcakes
Pound cake with lingonberries
Beverages including a bottle of a hops/barley, non-alcoholic Christmas drink on every day per two people and cups of non-alcoholic apple and pear wine and apple and lingonberry wine being poured plus sodas, lingonberry juice, coffee, and tea.

I started with an all fish plate with my second plate consisting of meats and side dishes. Perhaps I should have reversed the order of that as the Prinskov sausages, one of my favorites at these meals, were gone when I went up for the meats. (This has happened only once before.) These sausages must be very popular and perhaps they appeal to the kids because they are close in appearance to small hot dogs with a slightly different flavor. Smoked salmon is expensive. It is rarely found on a buffet and it is even rarer to find it on an inexpensive buffet. Here are unending platters of it in two different types. If you like herring here it is. The poached salmon is especially good - and I usually do not eat cooked salmon (much preferring smoked or raw salmon), but I like this one! The ham was very good. The meatballs are the usual IKEA Swedish meatballs - good. The side dishes are a chance to try some things that unless you are Swedish or Scandinavian you don't often get a chance to have other than in an Scandinavian restaurant. I don't eat liver but have had liverwurst in the long past. I tried the liverwurst pate here and it did not have what I consider the usual overwhelming liver taste that liver dishes have, but was mild and very pleasant. The food was good. The meal was satisfying. I ate too much. My picky eater wife who does not eat fish found enough in the meats, etc. to have a good meal. We both went for desserts and those were good as well.

This meal attracts all types of people from a various cultures. Those who stand out are the Swedes and there are many at these dinners. You can tell because they talk about the foods as being as good as home in Sweden and they with the singing and entertainment, they know the Swedish songs and join in. One thing I judge a culture-based restaurant (and buffet) by are the people of that culture who are dining there, commenting positively on how the food is, and who talk about frequently coming back. I find this at these IKEA buffet dinners with people who are from a family of people from Sweden or who have lived in Sweden. 

These dinners must not be judged by the usual IKEA cafeteria restaurant. With the exception of the meatballs and mashed potatoes, the foods served here are very different from those served in Ikea's day to day restaurant.

The best part aside from the food is that this is a party, especially now with the music added which started at this location at the buffet last summer. The same band was here on this night and they put on a good show. They got the whole room involved in singing, got people up to dance, got a line dance going around the room, and kept the party going right up to 9 o'clock. And the party atmosphere spreads from table to table with people enjoying themselves. There are couples, families. large groups, and singles. There are kids and when Santa came out, were brought up on the dance floor to meet Santa.

The employees who run this dinner and work at it are wonderful too! Everyone has a smile and warmly greets every guest. The people who come from the kitchen to bring out more platters if food do so quickly and seem happy to be there. The people who come and take plates off your table are friendly as well. The manager walks around the dining room stopping more than once at every table to be sure that everyone is happy and getting everything that they like.

During the dinner the tickets for the next dinner go on sale - the next dinner is for Easter on April  11, 2014. We bought our tickets for that dinner - as did many who were there. This is one reason why these tickets sell out so quickly. We bought our tickets for this Christmas dinner last August.

Every IKEA in the US - and perhaps the world - has these dinners and they are held on the same evening/night at each. As I just said, the next dinner is in April for Easter and the tickets can be purchased for that dinner right now at the cash register at the IKEA restaurant. If you would like to have a good smorgasbord for very little money that is also a party, try this. It has only been a few hours since we were there and I am already looking forward to the next IKEA smorgasbord in April!

I will make one last comment with this article. In the past when I have written about IKEA some readers have tried to leave negative comments because of some personal grudge with the store. I will not post those comments. If you have something valid to say that is negative about actually going to one of these dinners as long as it is written fairly, factually, and intelligently, I will post it. Often, though, the comments about IKEA from our readers are very positive. All comments are always moderated on this site.

No comments: