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Dec 9, 2007 06:20 AM

Portion Size at Finer Restaurants

Recently I've gone out to some great dinners. Great food, wine, ambiance, service, the whole dining experience was exceptional. BUT, I got a beef (although not too much of it). The entrees that I've been served as of late have been little more than a moderate to large snacks.

I just feel like something is wrong when 2 people go out to eat, have an appetizer or two, two entrees, dessert, a bottle of wine, pay the check (often about $150 - $200) and I leave hungry. I will admit to having a fair appetite, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Anyone else had this problem? Please tell me I'm not crazy or I will start going out to eat exclusively at the Cheescake Factory.

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  1. gaterfoodie, you could not be more right! Although many out there will say eating less has its healthy qualities, I still believe, like you, that portions have been shrinking at many of our best restaurants while prices have continued to climb. I remember years ago making a reservation to experience a 'hot' new chef's arrival in Manhattan, sitting through a prix fixe meal which was innovative and quite good, only to find myself eating later that evening at another spot (my guest and I had left hungry and perplexed)...The chef in question, by the way, was Jean George when he first began doing his thing at the old Lafayette...This type of presentation has become rampant in the small plate culinary culture that has been evolving...While I do enjoy 'grazing' from time to time, more often I like a generous portion of food place before me, thank you!

    1. Good for you for bringing up this subject. ... You make an excellent point. Many people feel afraid or intimidated to say, "Please Sir, can I have some more?" Many allow supposed 'trend setters' to make decisions for them. Not unlike viewing paintings consisting of a dot on a canvas and listening to everyone ravve about them when you know full well they have no idea why they are doing so. A great example would be that silly "orange gates" exhibit in NYC a few yrs ago.
      Having been to many tasting/Chef's table dinners,I have experienced the same miniscule dishes. Despite the small serving, size, some have had sufficient courses to satisfy but others have been downright ridiculous. I recently attended a dinner where the size of the beef served was, (seriously) the size of a marshmallow . Another course was served on a spoon!... I cannot help but think the Servers must think we are all pretty foolish spending all sorts of money for so little. I think the only way to make your displeasure known is to avoid those restaurants and to feel confident enough to state why when asked.
      No one should spend hundreds of dollars for dinner only to find themselves in the local Diner 3 hrs later.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Tay

        Good analogy with the dot on canvas! It's what I call "audacity art." It seems that if some "artists" have the audacity to ask a ridiculous price for nothing, people push and shove to pay it. "The Emperors New Clothes" syndrome.

        So I also call restaurants where you can tell how much rent they pay for their location by how much bare space there is surrounding your lonely morsel of food "audacity restaurants." I really really hate it when the "reduction of truffled blood oranges with heirloom yellow tomato coulis" that "compliments" my bay scallop size beef medallion is applied to the plate with an actual paint brush in such a thin later you can't even smell it, let alone taste it! A pox on the chef!

        But it has not always been so. In a one short century -- really not that long a time -- upscale (uptown?) food has gone from absurdly elaborate portions, with a nine course dinner being the norm, to what our audacity restaurants set before us today where the entire meal would not equal the lightest course back then. Want to see some over-the-top fancy dishes? Look up some of Careme's presentations or even Escoffier's. See if you can find a menu for dinners served in dining cars of trains in the early 1900s. Incredible. But! It was also considered *extremely* bad form back then to clean your plate. Food history can be fun!

        In today's upscale expensive restaurants, the only ones that seem to still serve filling portions are steak houses that serve USDA Prime dry cured beef. So if you want to spend an arm and a leg for dinner, go Porterhouse! Two arms and two legs, and you can go wagyu!

        1. re: Caroline1

          Remember those "Great Chef of ...." shows? The tinkling piano or luxurious guitar and the rich, seductive voice over would say "And now Chef creates his signature plating" and you watch him drawing free form art on the plate in two colors/sauces and carefully plate up two lamb chops, a tablespoon of rice, and three green trees.

          Which brings to mind that "audacity restaurants" always mention on the menu every single thing on the plate, even one cornichone, and then put each item on the plate by the tablespoon full.

          1. re: yayadave

            : Le Cafe Eau D'City


            TIFFANY SALAD an elegant play of one glorious curly endive leaf against one of Belgian endive artfully brought to their glistening best with spritzed Badoit Red water from France, a strategically placed golden grape tomato and a generous drizzle of fine Tuscan extra virgin olive oil with three luscious droplets of one hundred year old Balsamic vinegar
            fifty nine ninety five

            In other words, for fifty bucks you get two leaves of lettuce, one grape tomato, and enough manure to fertilize all of Tuscany!

            1. re: Caroline1

              Thank you for this - I needed the laugh :)

          2. re: Caroline1

            Christo's "Gates" was beautiful and fun. The park was overflowing on the cold February day we went. Plus, he can draw like a master, and uses proceeds from the sale of his drawings to finance his installations. Municipal cooperation is required, but not public funds.

            Let's see, food… Afterwards we ate at the Met. It was good. And the portions seemed adequate.

          3. re: Tay

            Actually, Christo and Jeanne-Claude's "Gates" was absolutely fantastic!
            And IT WAS FREE!

            But I know what you mean. I feel that way about Rothko.

            1. re: Loren3

              Yes free to the public and to be fair, the artist spent some of his own money to have them installed, but I guarantee that the NYC Taxpayers got slammed for the police overtime, Parks Dept overtime, Dept of Sanitation overtime and a gazillion other things associated with that exhibit.
              While I respect your opinion and that of a previous Poster,how anyone could possibly refer to that as "beautiful and fun" and "absolutely fantastic" is beyond me. I'd have to agree with Caroline1's assesssment:
              The Emperors New Clothes" syndrome

              1. re: Tay

                We can disagree about what is good and bad art but the revenue generated by people who went to see the Gates certainly off-set any additional cost to the city.

                1. re: KTinNYC

                  I don't know with any certainty that " the revenue generated by people who went to see the Gates certainly off-set any additional cost to the city." .I'd have to see the facts/figures before I could support either view,
                  but I tend to think not.
                  BTW... I don't necesarily think of it as good or bad art...
                  More like pretentious, pseudo art.
                  I was really using it as an analogy for people who patronize pesudo restaurants, because they don't have the confidence to say "Hey! what's up with serving me minuscle 'portions' of ridiculously concocted dishes at astronomical prices" and calling it dinner?" :-}

          4. Well it's always been my experience that 'upscale', 'trendy', 'fine dining', (or whatever you wish to call them) restaurants have always been more about 'taste', 'presentation', ambience and less about 'portion(s)' sizes. Maybe 'portion' sizes are getting smaller but to me they were never huge, big, or what I would even consider 'moderate' in size compared to places like coffee shops, diners, or restaurants not consider of the upscale, trendy, or fine dining variety. I guess that's why we rarely dine at them. Good food, even creative food doesn't need to be overpriced and served in portions that would barely satisfy the appitite of say a field mouse.

            1. Right. The 3 scallop appetizer for $22 my wife got and the 5 Gnocchi appetizer I got at another place for $10 were perfect examples. These things are just not that precious.

              But there is a certain amount of Political Correctness going on here, also. A certain segment of our society is blaming obesity on the large portions served in restaurants. So local food writers have been writing how happy they are to go out to dinner and find smaller portions!

              2 Replies
              1. re: yayadave

                That's right, yayadave, and these same 'critics' have been going home hungry after spending a stipend...I don't buy it!

                1. re: gutreactions

                  They never admit to "going home hungry." They always claim to be well satisfied and glad to see some sensible and healthy sized portions. They're just ever so Politically Correct.

              2. I just got in from an excellent dinner at a popular restaurant and although I'm not actually hungry, I'm hardly feeling full. I shared an app. with friends and had an entree of cod - no more than 3 oz., as I would guess, then split a dessert. I had a drink, some very nice, crusty bread and a cup of coffee. The bill was around $140 for three of us. As I said, the food was brilliantly prepared and presented, but on the skimpy side of portion control. A few more bites of fish would have been very welcomed.

                1 Reply
                1. re: EllenMM

                  But if you'd had your own app & dessert instead of sharing, would you have been full?