Swedish megastore Ikea has arrived in Chiba Prefecture, and their in-store restaurant is a great place for an authentic, inexpensive Swedish meal. It's not Swedish haute cuisine (the closest to that might be Allt Gott in Kichijoji), but the food is much better than the cafeteria setup might lead you to expect, and it's excellent value for money. And with a location just across the street from JR Minami-Funabashi station, it's a convenient place to stop off on your way to Tokyo from Makuhari Messe, or if you're shopping at the nearby LaLaport mall.
Ikea's restaurant-cafe area is massive, meant to handle the weekend hordes, and it can be pleasantly uncrowded on weekdays. The menu is small, focusing on popular dishes like the tasty Swedish meatballs - 5, 10, or 15 to the plate - served with boiled potatoes, tart lingonberry jam and a thick, beefy gravy. The baked salmon filet in dill sauce (Y695) is also quite delectable, and there's plenty more Scandinavian seafood in the starter section - smoked salmon, a very appetizing crayfish and salmon pate, and an open-face shrimp and egg sandwich (Y395) that makes a nice mid-afternoon snack on its own.
If you just want a coffee break, there's a good selection of Swedish pastries and desserts (the almond cake is recommended), and indeed half the restaurant area is a casual cafe-style space, with some sofas and comfy chairs. Wine (Y300/glass) and beer are available. You can even use your JR Suica card to pay.
Most of the restaurant menu is sold in frozen form downstairs in the Swedish food section next to the exit. You can also stock up on Swedish breads, jams and preserves, cookies and chocolates, elderflower and lingonberry drinks, many different herrings and lots of lox. Pretty much everything you need for a Swedish picnic or a quick meal at home. Aquavit (Scandinavian herb-flavored schnapps) makes a nice match for all the seafood, and Ikea sells an interesting variety pack of 10 airplane-size bottles for Y1295, as well as larger-size bottles.
by Robb Satterwhite
This book will introduce you to more than twenty of Japan's favorite specialty foods that are less well known abroad, along with a guide to the best places in Tokyo to try them and expert tips on what to order. From Bento.com.