Ever watched a cooking competition show? From Iron Chef to Chopped, the judges are tough about not just how a dish tastes, but it how it looks. Properly plating a meal to showcase the ingredients and draw the diner's eye is a skill; luckily there are a few places in our area that present dishes that almost look too good to eat.
Whether you're ordering from the extensive bar menu littered with happy hour deals or the regular dinner menu, the small and large plates at Pacific Grill will never disappoint. Even one of the basic snacks, like the Meat Candy, which combines roasted dates, apple-smoked bacon and Reggiano cheese in mouth-sized bites, will be served without unnecessary embellishments, allowing the compact candies to take center stage. Order the Weathervane Scallops to really be blown away, not only by the size and tenderness of the scallops, but for the deconstructed ravioli, which will have you drooling at first glance.
Pacific Grill, 1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. (253) 627-3535.
There's something appealing about viewing the cut of meat before it arrives on your plate, especially when you're dealing with prime cuts of Wagyu beef and dry-aged, marbled slabs of steak. Ricardo's in Lacey, which underwent a transformation a few years ago when they started focusing less on pasta and more on meat. The Bone "in" Fillet, one of the chef's favorites, will leave carnivores wiping tears of joy from their eyes and if that's not enough, the delicate Maytag Blue salad with just enough dressing and the ideal amount of pistachios will definitely complete the picture perfect meal.
Ricardo's, 5211 Lacey Blvd., Lacey. (360) 413-9995.
Despite having multiple locations, the Matador still feels like a one-of-a-kind experience with regard to the attention the kitchen gives to your order. The inexpensive chain Mexican places may have people believing that a platter of fajitas has to be messy or come in Styrofoam, but at this popular T-town spot dishes are far from sloppy and the components are never muddled together. In fact, any of their taco plates - though I recommend the blackened white fish - are dished out precisely and the aesthetic makes you even hungrier. Even the brief dessert menu offers up camera-worthy decadence; the chocolate cake, with its mahogany color contrasts with the bright white vanilla ice cream and a small river of golden pineapple rum caramel.
Matador, 721 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. (253) 627-7100.
For the sushi-loving crowd, TWOKOI literally creates art on a plate. The best part about a meal there, aside from the taste of course, might be the ability to sit at the bar and actually watch the vibrantly colored fish be expertly cut, rolled and then arranged with artistic flair. In particular, the Heaven of Tuna roll stands out with its combination of ruby-red, thinly sliced tuna, dollops of sauce at the dish's edge and the flourish of shrimp tempura peeking through.
TWOKOI Japanese Cuisine, 1552 Commerce St., Tacoma. (253) 274-8999.