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What do you expect to come with an entree?

I went to a casual seafood restaurant (jeans fine). On the menu, there were appetizers, main entrees on top. At the bottom, sides and desserts. The entrees had descriptions like (leaving out details of where it's from, how prepared, etc.): halibut with oyster mushrooms and creamy grits $27, scallops with cauliflower puree and wild mushrooms $26, sablefish with watercress salad and xxx (I can't remember) $29. Sides were things like mac and cheese, cole slaw, onion rings, braised collard greens, things like that. From the descriptions and price, I assumed an entree would be a meal entree, where the protein was part of a whole meal. I ordered scallops and got four scallops, a little sauce and four mushrooms on a little rectangular plate that looked like an appetizer. They were excellent but I was still hungry afterward. Is it wrong to assume an entree, not a "protein" or "meat, fish, chicken" list (I've seen this before, but then there are lists of "vegetables", "starches" below and it's clear that's all you're getting), should come with more? I'm not complaining as much as wondering if this is becoming a new norm.

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  1. I have found it really varies. If I haven't been to a place and can't get a look at the plates being served, I ask about portions. In some places an appetizer is a lot of food so I might order two of those instead of a main, but if the main is small that means a side. Best to ask IMHO.

    4 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      I've never been to a place that had such small entrees which is why I'm wondering if t's a new thing. I often order a side of vegetables and will ask if how much vegetable there really is. But, I've never spent that much on an entree (in addition to sharing a dozen oysters on the half shell) and been hungry. Part of being on CH is that people always put the onus on the customer to ask--if I were to ask about everything that CHs say I should, I'd just be one pain of a customer (how much is the special, how large are the oysters, is the xxxx included, how much cauliflower puree do I get, how many scallops do I get and how large are they, how large is the serving of wild mushrooms, can I can my appetizer before my entree--yes I've been told I need to do that, how much is that glass of wine that you substituted for what I ordered, etc.).

      1. re: chowser

        I think if the restaurant does not make it clear in some way what you should expect to receive then they should have to put up with a lot of questions--assuming it is not a diner and you've ordered the $6.99 dinner special...though it is usually very clear what you get in that case--maybe even a picture.

        1. re: chowser

          Actually you could just ask if the entree is meant to be enough for one person's dinner, or if sides are needed. I almost always end up asking something like this at new places, especially if the items look like "small plates" or if they are meant for sharing.

          We just tried a new Lebenese place and had no idea about portion sizes, and the menu was divided into many different sections. We just asked how many dishes from each section a hungry couple might order, and the waitress steered us correctly.

          There's a restaurant that I like that serves a scallop dish just like the one you describe. But, the menu is divided into appetizers, small plates, and large plates, and the scallops are considered a small plate. So, we would order other items as well. If your menu was typical American (so, not small plates or tapas or anything like that) that I too probably would have expected more from an entree.

          1. re: christy319

            Yes, exactly--if this had come off the small plates on the menu, it's what I would have expected. But, this was off the larger plates/entree side. If I'm not sure, I normally ask and I do expect, as with most restaurants, that the protein will be the major component of the dish. With the description, I thought otherwise, but it never occurred to me that the protein would be about the only component of the dish!

      2. I guess it depends on the type of restaurant... and we don't usually frequent that type. When we order an entree for dinner, even at our nicer restaurants around here, we get soup or salad, the entree, along with 2 sides (starches, vegetables). These are usually portions that are what one would find on a family dinner plate. Especially for something that cost over $20. Heck, even on $9 entree's.
        Now I know things are different in big cities, in fancy restaurants, but here, one can get a great steak, with everything else for $20.

        1 Reply
        1. re: wyogal

          This wasn't fancy but it was pricey for us, as a casual place. Generally, when I spend that much on an entree, I don't leave feeling hungry!

        2. I'm pretty sure I know where you are talking about and won't mention the name. I will agree that ordering the "entree" brings not all that much food and you need sides to round it out.
          The best bet at this particular place is to go with the meat and two ;-)

          3 Replies
          1. re: monavano

            The meat and two did catch my eye and i"ll do that next time. I had oysters on the half shell and the scallops--I got my share of protein! This seemed out of the ordinary enough that I would have thought I'd have heard about it somewhere. And, the funny thing is I'm normally the one who complains about getting too much food.

            1. re: chowser

              Me too! I remember specifically being disappointed with the sablefish portion, although it tasted good. I picked at it slowly so I wouldn't finish too quickly.
              Meat and two.. way to go. I like to hit them up on flat iron steak night ;-)

              1. re: monavano

                I'll keep the flat iron steak in mind--thanks! When I received my entree, I was asked if I wanted another glass of wine and said yes. I ate slowly but 7-8 bites later, I was on my last scallop. I finished off the goldfish w/ my glass of wine.

          2. funnily enough I had the opposite experience the other night...

            we went to a local pub. The menu said fish and chips and went on to describe in detail the fish and the chips (beer-battered, hand cut etc etc).
            I assumed that I would be getting just fish and chips (for a price that's on the low side for here) so ordered a side of coleslaw (which brought the price up to about what I'd expect to pay).

            Well, the fish and chips came with coleslaw and so with the (giant) side I ordered I had a mound of coleslaw to get through. Fortunately my husband's meal wasn't quite so generous with the veg so he ate quite a lot of the coleslaw.

            I was slightly annoyed though that the waiter didn't tell me that I was already getting coleslaw and that I might prefer a different side. But it also seemed odd that there was no mention of it on the menu.

            1 Reply
            1. re: piwakawaka

              Maybe the server thought you'd REALLY like the cole slaw.;-) I've had a server warn me that I probably didn't want as much as I'd ordered and tell me how much food the serving came with. I was very appreciative because I barely made a dent in the dinner.

            2. I have a personal dislike for the menu to describe the sides in a flowing manner to accompany your entree and when you get it there's nothing more than half a boiled new potato, a quarter of a carrot stick just blanched so you can't even bite into it, and a puree of parsnip about the size of a nickel. I'd rather they don't pretend you are getting enough and send the entree with nothing and have you buy sides.

              1 Reply
              1. re: smartie

                Yes, I wish they would just tell us sides weren't enough of a component to constitute a meal.

              2. Seems that the menu description was accurate as to what was served. If it had been me, I would have wanted to order a carb to go with it.

                Where I am, there's certainly an increasing tendency for dishes not to be complete dishes, if you will - often leaving off a carb or vegetable. It's a pure marketing trick to ensure you order extra accompaniments, as well as the dish appearing to be better value for money than it really is.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Harters

                  I would think that was the case but they didn't specify that you should order more. The description makes it seem like this a full entree--why else would cheesy grits be a side? I thought my cauliflower puree might be something for the low carbers. I didn't realize it was a drizzled sauce. I think four scallops is plenty, as long as they threw in some cheap fillers.

                  1. re: chowser

                    Yes I would have assumed the same. I eat a lot of potatoes at home and restaurant meals generally come with bread, so I actually look for mains that have more interesting, less starchy sides, and I would also assume cauliflower puree was a starch alternative. None of the sides you mention actually seem to go that well with seafood mains anyway, they sound like they came from a different menu.

                    1. re: julesrules

                      Interesting you mention the sides didn't belong w/ mains because I had wanted the grits and the oyster mushrooms but didn't want halibut with them. I asked if I could order an extra side of grits and mushrooms but the server asked the chef who said he couldn't do it. I wonder if it's because the "sides" on the entree are so small that they couldn't have portioned out a real side.

                2. I live in Nor Cal, in the "suburbs", where I live, all of the place I eat, give a "full plate", protein and side, sometimes with a choice of soup/salad. When I go to the "City" (San Francisco), most of the places I eat are "a la carte". I guess I have learned, when I see sides such as: potatoes, mac and cheese, I figure it is al la carte, or perhaps I see "a la carte" on the menu, or have researched the menu on line.

                  The pricing of your selections is consistent with SF pricing, add $6-10 for a salad, and $7 for a side.

                  I don't think this is the new norm (in my area), because my father used to help me order when we ate "a la carte". That would have been in the 60's.

                  I would hope the wait staff would help me if I didn't order "correctly", if I ordered the "beef" and no sides, I would hope the wait staff would explain I was just getting "beef", no potato for example.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Alan408

                    yes I'm surprised the wait staff didn't explain the "concept" because it would only have increased the order. It can be done without being pushy too... "depending on how hungry you are, some customers like to order sides because our seafood dishes are small plates" or whatever.

                    1. re: julesrules

                      Oh, and there were small plates on the menu. I ordered off the large plates. I can't imagine what small plates are! I assumed that the sides were more for people who ordered small plates.

                    2. re: Alan408

                      The more responses I read and the more I think about it, I don't think they meant for people to order sides. If they had, I think it would have been more apparent. Sides seemed to take the same importance as desserts, and there was nothing about a la carte. If this were a la carte, then as you and julesrules said, it would be easy to let a diner know. Maybe they just think people want to be such light eaters? Six oysters=6 bites; 4 scall[ops=less than 12 bites. I'm a light eater but an 18 bite dinner doesn't fill me up.

                      1. re: chowser

                        I'm not sure WHY restaurants are doing this, but I see it all the time. Not so much that the entree is tiny, but that the entree consists of a hunk of protein, a smear of root vegetable purree across the plate, a napping of sauce, a drizzle of flavored oil, a fleck of brussel sprout and half inch cube of beat. WHAT THE HELLL? I'm not a vegetarian, but I'd LIKE some. I suppose they think that's what people want.

                        My complaint was really brought home to me last year when I went to my fave place in Northhampton Mass, Green Street Cafe, and my fish came with a large serving of stewed garbanzo beans and a good portion of spinach(kale,chard...i forget). It hit me that it was the first time I'd seen a plate in a fine dining establishment in ages that even approached the standard for healthy eating.

                        I sometimes dine w/ a vegetarian friend, and in really good restaurants, her veg plate makes me jealous. I'm considering a new plan of ordering an app w/ plenty of protein (prob. shellfish) and then asking for a veg plate as entree. My only quandry is will they go to the trouble of making an off-menu veg plate (assuming there's nothing on the menu) when I've already outted myself as non-veg.

                        1. re: danna

                          I do wish that restaurants would follow the FDA food plate more--it would be great to have half the plate be vegetables instead of a condiment. The Green Street cafe sounds right up my alley (plus after all those greens, I'd feel almost entitled to a Bart's ice cream!). I often order sides of vegetables. In this case, with the cauliflower puree and wild mushrooms, I thought there would be some. Live and learn.

                          1. re: danna

                            I'm about to apply there for a job, I will keep your comment in mind!!!

                            1. re: KSlink

                              good luck! I love that place. Once they handed me an eggplant from their garden on the way out the door. I stuffed it my suitcase for the flight home!