Menu Madness

As the price of food continues to rise, restaurants are seeking inventive ways to pad out smaller portions and keep profit margins up. This was the topic du jour at the recent Atlantic City Restaurant Gala, and the Washington Post has an article outlining ingredient-slimming tips given to restaurant owners. Some of them seem downright shady:

Lots of restaurants are buying smaller plates to make the reduced servings look just as large, or lighter silverware so that even if there are fewer bites per serving, each bite feels heavier than usual on the fork. A la carte portions of high-priced dishes—steaks, for example—are getting pared back and surrounded by low-cost starches and vegetables.

Lighter silverware? Are they counting on the “dumb but rich” diner contingent? Paris Hilton, beware. The accompanying video shows how to make a 75-cent slice of cake look like it’s worth six dollars: Shove it to the side and decorate the plate by spreading out a nickel’s worth of prettily patterned sauce.

Other trompe l’oeil tactics mentioned in the piece: Tearranging the menu so that prices are less obvious (one expert recommends spelling out the numbers), and skewering shrimp before boiling them so they don’t curl up as much.

I’m sympathetic with the plight of restaurants, but I think I agree with Boston resident Nina Braun, who tells the Boston Globe that, if she notices a restaurant cutting back on portions or quality, she plans to stay away. When there’s a fork in the road, I’ll take the normal weight one, please, even if I have to pay more.