Have you ever dreamt of those foods that you enjoyed as a child? Reid Zeising did and his passion for these fond childhood memories were revived when he opened his first Genki Noodle & Sushi in Buckhead in 1996 for us in Atlanta to share in those foods that he so enjoyed while growing up in Japan. Flash-forward to 2011, to fill a void in the Virginia-Highland’s causal dining scene, Reid converted the space that once housed Everybody’s Pizza into his third rendition of Genki Noodles & Sushi. Now Virginia-Highland has its own neighborhood “sushi-ya” restaurant that’s built on the premise of realizing contentment while enjoying life’s finer pleasures. The energy source for this fun-filled eatery is Jason Drumheller and his knowledgeable staff.
Japanese cuisine is usually very simple, as it is based on a belief that nature cannot be improved just enhanced. The perfect complement to these foods is saké with all of its various nuances and delicacies and Genki has assembled an outstanding selection to be explored – have fun searching for your favorite. The refreshing Gekkeikan Zipang saké with subtle melon notes and effervescence excites the palate but more importantly it’s just fun to sip on. Then there is Rock Cloud saké, the first ultra-premium sake made in America. This smooth saké is made with high quality Californian rice with mountain spring water from Oregon, enjoy the honeydew flavors and the smile that follows. In addition to the saké, Genki has put together a wine, beer, and cocktail menu that can wow the senses; whatever your desire, it’s here.
The extensive menu has something for everyone, even those that are not ready to jump into the ritual of eating sushi or sashimi yet. Besides being artfully prepared, the food presentations are large enough to be shared at the table. The Tiger Shrimp appetizer is a good place to jump-start the evening. The shrimp are sautéed in a spicy garlic chili sauce and served over a mild flavored house made guacamole with fresh wonton chips for scooping; this mirrors the Japanese culture of contrast and balance. Then there is the Hamachi Kama, which is the collar portion of the Pacific yellowtail that’s marinated in a garlic- soy sauce then grilled to absolute perfection. To most this might seem like a scrap portion of the fish, but instead this Japanese delicacy is the most tender and flavorful cut, relish each bite. For those not in the mood for seafood, the “fall off the bone” Japanese Marinated Ribs are the die for. These finger licking baby back ribs are barbequed with a sweet and savory sauce and served over a bed of flash fried crispy spinach- totally yum!
There are many choices of high quality sushi and rolls to enjoy - strongly recommend stepping out a bit with the buttery textured escolar, the delectable idako, or the sweet tasting ama ebi (feeling adventurous? crunch down on the flash-fried shrimp head its really quite good). The creatively crafted rolls are masterpieces. The Genki Tuna roll is a blackened bluefin tuna loin that’s seasoned and coated with panko then flash fried. This picture perfect dish is a celebration for the senses to enjoy. The other fusion-like roll that shouldn’t be missed is the Virginia Highland roll. There is a crazy mixed-up explosion of flavors from the combination of spicy tuna with sweet mango that’s topped with escolar, avocado, thin jalapeño slices, and masago (smelt roe) - this wildly fun uramaki roll is a blast to taste, and mimics the eclectic street action of the Highlands.
Most traditional meals in Japan are made with noodles or rice, and Genki has plenty to choose from. Yakisoba is stir-fried ramen noodles in a sweet fermented fish sauce with thinly sliced grilled beef, shredded cabbage, nori, red ginger with a side of Japanese mayonnaise- absolutely delicious. The traditional bowl that should be Genki’s signature dish is the Unatama Don. From the first taste the salivary glands go into over-drive, it’s like an omelet on steroids. The grilled fresh water eel is married with sweet egg, onions, and ginger and served over white rice creating decadence in a bowl – just let the OMG experience come out.
So what can top these amazing sensations? Remember as a child how a simple cookie would bring on a nice warm glow after eating your meal. At Genki that glow is amped up with tempura fried Oreos and Twinkies. These classic American treats are lightly battered and flash fried to give an extra crunch, but what makes these sweets scream is the side of the ultra-luxurious High Road vanilla ice cream. After the final bite realization sets in that satisfaction, happiness, and contentment is just a chopstick away. Itadakimasu!!!
LGTG FRIENDLY *****
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