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Menu makeover

Line-up eight years in the making

Illustration by Lance Kagey

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After being open for eight years this month, Pacific Grill chef/owner Gordon Naccarato and his team recently rolled out thoroughly revamped menus, featuring small plates, lower prices and more vegan and gluten-free options.

"After eight years, I wanted to shake things up," said Naccarato. "It felt very much like we were opening a brand new restaurant. Very fresh, modern and exciting."

With around 20 new menu items, the dinner menu strays from the traditional appetizer/main dish/dessert format, and diners choose from categories like Crudo, Raw + Almost Raw, Shareable Small Plates and Eat Your Greens, amongst others. It's a decidedly more creative and fun way to order, with more opportunity to try a variety of different dishes.

"When I go out to eat with friends, we like ordering lots of plates, passing the food around so everyone gets a bite or two," said Naccarato. "You get to try lots of plates instead of this big giant slab of protein."

Many entrées have half-sized portions available, including the King salmon ($14/half, $26/full), steamer clams ($15.95/half, $25/full) and chicken caprese ($11/half, $19.95/full), to name a few. These half portions also encourage sharing and allow for lighter portions and prices.

It fits into Naccarato's concept of "fun dining, not fine dining", though guests are still seated in one of the most stunning dining rooms in Tacoma.

"I want people to have an amazing meal and have the sense they have been invited to a great party that doesn't cost an arm and a leg," he said.

On a recent visit for dinner, a sampling of the new dishes delivered on the enjoyable ordering experience and shareable portions, though the plating and presentation did not quite stand up to the flavors, and might benefit with a fresh update as well.

Standout dishes include the papas bravas ($6.95), lightly crisped fingerling potatoes smothered in a rich and bright almond romesco sauce and garlic aioli. The soy whiskey chicken adobo ($8.95) was craveable, with crisp-charred skin and deep, savory sauce. The sweet potato salad served alongside was a smart update to the old classic, and the creaminess paired perfectly with the chicken. Broccoli fritto ($7.95) begs to be dunked in a pool of accompanying jalepeno aioli. Pork buns ($2.95/each), or bao, were a welcome sight on the menu, and held tender pork shoulder in a fluffy bun with zippy dipping sauces, though they could have used a pickled vegetable or slaw to brighten them up a bit with some texture.

With room for improvement, "the devil's eggs" ($4.95), a trio of deviled eggs, did not deliver on the anticipated differentiated flavors. The fresh creamed corn ($5.95), while conceptually delicious-sounding, had a strong Thai flavor profile that did not seem to fit well served alongside other dishes.

Not everything at Pacific Grill has changed, however. Some classic dishes remain on the menu, such as the clam linguine ($15.95/half, $24/whole), "faux" gras ($10), filet mignon ($22/half, $42/whole) and "lobstergasm" (market price), and others.

What do diners think of the changes? "So far the response has been tremendous," said Naccarato. "We hear lots of guests thanking us for offering two portion sizes. And they really like the variety of the menu with so many offerings."

Look for more updates at Pacific Grill, this time to the interior. They are doing a little remodeling in the next few weeks, including new fabrics and upholstery and a new cooking line in the kitchen.

PACIFIC GRILL, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 5-11 p.m. Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday, 253.627.3535

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