Portion Control Included For No Extra Charge

Mangia E Bevi – For some reason, crossing the Lion’s Gate Bridge on a gloomy, hard-raining day feels like breaching the boundary between anytown USA and the land of the zombies. The simple 10 minute journey from my house to the West End seemingly becomes an arduous journey full of pitfalls and perils. On those days, my mind tries its best to psych itself out of going across the bridge to a destination in which almost endless options for satisfying my hunger exist. On those days, I often choose to try out one of the several genre-abiding restaurants on Marine Drive in West Vancouver that might or might not have senior citizens as their target clientele.

Those days actually occur quite regularly for me; yesterday happened to be one of those days. It also happened to be one of those weekdays that my favorite local restaurant – Le Regalade – was not open for lunch. I actually didn’t know that Le Regalade wasn’t open for lunch until I parked my car across from its front door and peeked into the restaurant to find nary a soul in sight. I made a quick scan around to see what the other dining options were in the area. Zen was right next door and open for lunch, but I’d rather dine with zombies than eat there. Two doors down was Mangia E Bevi, a restaurant that has never looked sexy enough to attract me to it. But next to the ever so unattractive Zen, Mangai E Bevi seemed like a supermodel.

Since my wife and I were visiting the restaurant with our son in tow, we were segregated to a smaller, walled-off section of the restaurant. With most of the tables in the main dining room being occupied by people who were beyond retirement-age, I understood their concern of my son being a potential source of undesired noise pollution. It worked out great for us because we had the whole section to ourselves for the entire meal.

We were served complimentary bread while the kitchen prepared the items we ordered.

There was so little of the bread that I don’t think my 4-year-old son would be satisfied after eating the entire basket. In fact, I think that the entire basket of bread would probably be smaller in size than one slice of complimentary bread from other local restaurants that give out bread for free. The bread itself wasn’t that bad. The tiny slices tasted good when I dipped them into the oil/vinegar mixture. But I have to say that teasing us with such a small portion size only added to our collective hunger instead of satisfying it.

Our calamari appetizer was also moderately portioned.

The breading of the few pieces of calamari that we were given was very thorough. The deep-fry job was also good. The finished product was not too greasy. Whatever grease that was left on each individual piece of squid was nicely balanced out by the few dressed leafs residing below the pieces of deep-fried squid. The flavours of the individual pieces of squid suggested to me that they were not as fresh as they should be. They had tell-tale hair-dye-like flavours that I have often experienced with calamari that wasn’t fresh enough.  The slightly spicy tomato sauce included was perfect for counteracting the hair-dye flavours. One dip into the sauce was all that was needed to negate the unpleasant flavours. We ended up finishing every single thing on the plate. We finished the entire dish not because it was extra tasty. We finished the dish because the portion size was so small that it was impossible for there to be leftovers.

Both my wife and I ordered pasta for our main courses. We ordered the veal marsala for our meat-loving son.

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Continuing with the theme of the smaller portion sizes, the meant-for-adult order of veal cutlets were barely portioned enough for my four-year-old son. Even though the veal was paper thin, it was not as tender as most other versions of veal marsala I’ve had. The sauce – which we requested to be served on the side – had a much richer butter flavour and a much more subdued marsala-wine flavour that other versions. The included potatoes were adequately cooked and the grilled vegetables had charred flavours that were enjoyable. Other than the slightly tougher texture of the meat, there was nothing much wrong with the dish if you disregard its inadequate portion size.

The comically small portion sizes stopped with the veal. Both my wife’s tagliolini and my pappardelle had portion sizes that were much more in line with the norm.

The tagliolini came with smoked black cod, pancetta, arugula, cooked onions, and lobster oil. The dish was supposed to be their “healthier” pasta dish so it was rather light on the sauce and included components. My wife confirmed that the overall flavours of the dish were likewise light in nature. She wasn’t able to detect any of the flavours of the lobster oil, but she did experience a hint of sweetness from the onions as well as a tad of smokiness from the bits of smoked black cod included. My wife also said that the pasta had a texture that was adequately firm but not perfectly al dente. As the main course for a meal, the portion size of the tagliolini was still on the small side. But for a primi pasta dish (which it was listed under in their menu) meant to be had before a secondi of meat or seafood, the portion size was just right. My wife thought that the dish was filling enough -for her at least- as a main course for lunch.

The pappardelle that I ordered was also listed as a primi, and it also seemed to be portioned accordingly. I didn’t think the portion size would be able to satisfy my usual mega-sized hunger for lunch, but it turned out to be enough. I did not leave the restaurant hungry after having the dish. The richness of the tomato-based meat sauce combined with the deceptively thick pappardelle left me satisfied. The sauce was savory, rich, and homey; it was comparable to some of the better meat sauce/ragu/blognese type pasta sauces I’ve had at local pasta joints. Much like the texture of my wife’s tagliolini, the pappardelle pasta on my plate had a texture that, although not perfect, was firm enough to create an enjoyable textural experience. With checkmarks on both the flavour and texture boxes, I had no negative feelings about the pappardelle I had at Mangia E Bevi.

I guess portion control is  a good thing. If the diner can’t be trusted to moderate their own food intake, the restaurant should do it for them. If preventing the overindulgence of their diners was truly the reason behind Mangia E Bevi’s small portion sizes, then I think they should win an award for their contribution to public health. But I think the more likely reason for the restaurant’s small portion sizes is to cater to the appetites of their target audience: the large number of seniors living in the restaurant’s vicinity. Either way, I have no complaints because I left the restaurant with my hunger sated while not overstuffing myself with calories that I didn’t really have a need for…the only problem I had with the controlled portion sizes is that I didn’t know that the portion sizes would suffice during the meal. It was only after I had finished the meal that I realized I wasn’t hungry anymore.

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