It has been a very long time since I have had IKEA food. I think it was at least two years ago that I had a Frozen Yogurt there. On a beautiful, sunny evening, it was quite the experience to walk into IKEA when it is not crowded. The new store in Richmond has a huge restaurant and dining area. There are two sides to the cafe-style service area but only one was open as there was just not that many customers. We did not really need a cart to lug around our plates, but the little carts are certainly cute! They have cold self-serve plates covered in cellophane. Servers assembled the hot dishes. Oh how it reminds me of college dining halls, except each of these plates are actually presentable and nicely arranged. Soft drinks and some other beverages are refillable. The sunshine shining in on the clean dining tables really made the ambiance quite casual and relaxing.
The dish I wanted to try the most was the Salmon With Hollandaise Sauce. It is a pink and tender salmon fillet covered with hollandaise sauce that the server ladles on. It comes with two Vegetable Medallions, small round pan-fried cakes made from mini potato cubes and broccoli. Also on the plate is a scoop of steamed vegetables, which included regular and yellow carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. The salmon was surprisingly not greasy at all – they literally just baked it without adding anything, I think. The hollandaise sauce was creamy and rather good. However, the lady put a little too much on mine, almost a thick a layer as the salmon, which made it too rich. After a while, it just became too much so I mostly just got rid of the sauce and ate the fish. The medallions were better than I expected, as I am not a fan of potatoes. It was lightly flavoured, but while it was mushy, it was also not collapsing. The potatoes were still in little cubes with broccoli bits surrounding it. I loved the yellow carrots, and both kinds were chewy with a slight crunch. The broccoli were slightly wilted and just starting to turn yellow. However, it has been a while since I ate steamed vegetables, especially carrots and cauliflower, so I really enjoyed those two.
Mom got the Soup With Roll in the self-serve line that comes after the hot food and right before the cashier. According to the lady working there, the daily feature of soup was ‘garden vegetables’ but I believe it also has rice in it. It had a tomato soup base, much like a vegetarian minestrone. As for the vegetables, from what I could tell, there were tomatoes, carrots, spinach, onions, broad beans, potatoes, and corn. I liked all of it except for the potatoes because I like the watery kind of soup and potatoes just make it thick and creamy. The tomato soup was nicely flavoured, not too watered down, and not too salty or sour. It was nicely seasoned but cooled quite quickly. It was so comforting when it was hot, though! The soup comes with a whole grain soup roll, which was actually really good. The outside layer was crispy and incredibly hard to chew while the inside was soft and fluffy. The bits of grains inside gave it a crunchy, varying texture. It was really all you can ask for in a soup roll at a place like this, and Mom and I were very pleased.
At IKEA, if you could only eat one dish, it would have to be the Swedish Meatballs, their signature dish around the world. We ordered a 15 piece plate for $3.99 since it was a weekday. It is only $1 more than the 10 piece, yet the 20 piece is still $1 more, so technically, 15 is the best price. We got it with the traditional mashed potatoes, though I think you can get it with other sides as well, including French fries, vegetables, salad, or pasta with tomato sauce. The server only asked us whether we wanted mashed potatoes or fries, but the menu at the entrance said all those other ones are considered sides as well. Cream sauce, or gravy, was ladled onto the dish and of course, there was the traditional spoon of their other specialty, the lingonberry jam. The meatballs, a mix of pork and beef, were tender and savoury, but they had been sitting in the warmer a little too long that the outside was no longer slightly crispy. They are as good as cafeteria meatballs will ever get, though. The large scoop of mashed potatoes was creamy, buttery, and smooth. The cream sauce was thick and had a nice flavour, nicely paired with the meatballs and mashed potatoes. My favourite part of the dish is the lingonberry jam, though. I love the sweet, sticky, yet slightly bitter jam. I dip my meatballs into the jam and the gravy at the same time, or separately, depending on my mood.
Finally, the Frozen Yogurt at the Exit Bistro is always a must-have for me whenever I go to IKEA. It has been so long since I ate my last cone, and the size has certainly decreased. It used to be huge, at least some of the time depending on the server. I guess they regulate the size much more now, although it is still decent for $1. I do not know how much yogurt is actually in this, because it tastes rather like vanilla soft serve with a slight tartness from the yogurt. Creamy, sweet, with that slight tartness, I can eat a whole bucket of this stuff. I do not like these kind of cones. Instead, I prefer warm waffle cones for my ice cream and frozen yogurt, but for $1, I am not expecting much more.
IKEA is just like Costco in a way. Both offers extremely cheap food of decent quality. Although slightly pricier, IKEA has a better ambiance and seemingly healthier food, especially with all the salads, sandwiches, salmon, and soup. Funny how all of those foods start with ‘s’ – I just noticed that! The price was still decent though, with the salmon plate at $7.99 and the soup and roll at $1.99. It is such a great place for a quick, simple, comforting meal in a quiet and relaxing area on a weekday. Mom does not have to cook and we can sit and chat while eating foods we rarely cook at home. We will be back for sure for more of their other plates and desserts!