Small plates: Share and Zins

Yesterday, I heard on the radio an Australian who was in town for the International Writers Workshop say, when the discussion turned to food, that she was surprised that portions were “the size of small buildings.”

Yes, that’s how we eat here in the Midwest America.

But in the last couple of weeks I’ve eaten at a two restaurants focusing on so-called “small plates” — dishes that only offer a half-dozen bites or so.

First was Share, a month-old place in the renovated Sheraton in downtown Iowa City. The other day was lunch at the reopened Zins in downtown Cedar Rapids. I wish there were more restaurants like them.

Share goes for hip and laid back. Small wine list but offers bottles, glasses and demi glasses (basically a smaller, cheaper pour). Food is decent, and prices are reasonable. It hasn’t had its grand opening yet, so there weren’t a lot of people there when I reviewed the place for Corridor Buzz (under a stunningly dull headline) which was nice.

Zins goes for a little more elegance: white tablecloths and nice china. It reopened exactly one year after it closed from the flooding of Cedar Rapids. (They’ve done a nice, subtle job of memorializing the flood with a blue line and date at the water’s high point in the entry way, and a framed mud-stained tablecloth with batik-like white showing through where glasses, plates and silverware had been.)

Lunch at Zins is a steal (two plates and a drink for $8), and dessert is decent (I tried “bacon & eggs,” which they describe as “vanilla panna cotta with peach puree, chocolate covered bacon with smoked sea salt, espresso caramel sauce” and sounds more interesting than it was).

Oddly, I more comfortable sharing small plates than I am entrees, though entrees could probably benefit more from the treatment since plodding through an entree is pretty boring after a few bites.

That’s why I found it odd when our waitress at Zins seemed surprised that we would order small plates and then, you know, share.