Inexpensive furniture is not the only thing cooking at Ikea in White Marsh

November 06, 1992|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

Lovers of cheap-but-good ethnic places should drive to White Marsh for Swedish food, where they'll find the restaurant tucked away in a home furnishings store. Ikea is known for its inexpensive, high-quality, assemble-it-yourself goods. The same could be said of the Ikea Restaurant & Cafe.

All blond wood and airy spaces, it's do-it-yourself in the sense that it's a cafeteria, as excellent a cafeteria as you'll find anywhere. The offerings are limited, but almost everything is good. The menu of Swedish foods consists of three dinners: baked salmon ($6.50), strip loin ($6.25) and Swedish meatballs ($3.49). Dinners come with red-skinned new potatoes and sauteed carrots, onions and celery. (There are usually a couple of daily specials as well, like chicken Marsala.)

Of course, it is a cafeteria. You stand in line waiting for some guy to ladle out the food for you. But he makes an attempt to arrange the slices of beef attractively, and he puts a sprig of parsley on top. You'll love the tender, pink slices of beef, and you'll enjoy the deeply flavorful demiglace that accompanies them. (Don't ask me what makes this dish Swedish -- we'll just have to take Ikea's word for it.) Every bit as good are the tiny, well-seasoned Swedish meatballs in their gravy; with them comes a spoonful of lingonberries, reminiscent of cranberry sauce.

The baked salmon could have been our best dish, but it was extremely salty. Too bad. It was beautifully fresh and had a delicate lemon sauce.

Salads and open-faced sandwiches, such as shrimp salad on Swedish rye, are made up in advance and are self-serve. Best bet: an open-faced roast beef with soup or salad for $2.75. Salads (85 cents) are made up of interesting mixed greens and radicchio -- pretty snazzy for a cafeteria. But the soup (90 cents), beef noodle this evening, had been sitting around too long; the pasta was cooked to mush.

Desserts include mildly enjoyable iced cakes ($1) and an apple cake ($1.75) with custard sauce that's unfortunately refrigerated instead of served warm. You might do best just buying a box of Swedish ginger cookies to have with your coffee.

One of the real pluses of the Ikea Restaurant & Cafe is the ballroom downstairs. This is a baby sitter par excellence for kids from 3 to 10, a glass room filled with colored balls. You can watch them from the cafeteria. (There's also a sitter/guard right outside the room.) But if you're more comfortable with your kids near you, Ikea has pint-size tables and chairs as well as grown-up ones in the cafeteria.

Ikea Restaurant & Cafe

Where: Ikea, White Marsh Mall.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sundays, brunch only.

Credit cards accepted: MC, V, Ikea.

Features: Swedish food.

Non-smoking section? Yes.

Call: (410) 931-5400.

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