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Feast with your eyes
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Sunday, April 22, 2012    |    By: Holly Leber (Contact)
Chato Brasserie’s Caesar salad is served inside a handmade parmesan cornucopia with a sprinkling of paprika and a sliver of anchovy.
Chato Brasserie’s Caesar salad is served inside a handmade parmesan cornucopia with a sprinkling of paprika and a sliver of anchovy.
Photo by Doug Strickland.
  • photo
    St John’s restaurant’s yogurt panna cotta in citrus soup is accented with a citrus tuile, sorbet, fresh citrus and a sprig of tarragon.
    Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

When it comes to food, looks matter.

"Most customers eat with their eyes first," said Chris Casteel, the manager and chef at Chato Brasserie, a restaurant on Manufacturers Road. "A plate of food that's attractive and looks like there's care to it, it's going to be more appealing before you take your first bite."

When plating food, Casteel and owner Alex Canale take texture, dimension, layer and height into consideration, among other elements.

"We put effort into each dish so they're all as pretty as the rest," Casteel said.

One of the restaurant's most visually stunning dishes is the Caesar salad. It is served inside a handmade parmesan cornucopia, with a sprinkling of paprika and a sliver of anchovy.

"It doesn't look like any Caesar I've ever seen," said Canale. "It's got that wow factor to it."

Color is always an important factor in presentation.

"You don't want a brown protein with a brown vegetable and a brown sauce," Casteel said.

At St. John's restaurant on Market Street, chef Daniel Lindley incorporates a medley of color into his apple beet salad.

Towers of cut apples are at the center of a melange of golden beets, prepared three ways -- in puree, roasted and chips -- sprinkled with microgreens, goat cheese and thinly sliced radish.

At Chato Brasserie, a Wagyu steak tartare served with house-made potato chips and homemade whole-grain mustard, is presented to offer texture, dimension and height.

The diced tartare, accented with green flecks of chives, are set in a ring mold, then accompanied by oblong chips and finished off with a smear of mustard for a rustic texture.

Lindley said he often uses an order-and-chaos approach to plating.

The beet salad, for example, incorporates order in the shape of apple towers and precise placement of the beets, but is also chaotic in the drizzled microgreens and goat cheese.

A dessert featuring yogurt panna cotta in citrus soup, accented with a citrus tuile, sorbet, fresh citrus and a sprig of tarragon, is a much more orderly creation.

"There is variety in texture, both aesthetically and sensually speaking," he said. "It's fun."