My craving for sushi is rare, not because I don’t love raw fish, but because it is so often bastardized that it isn’t even sushi at all….pseudo sushi if you will. Or better yet, pseushi!
Truth is, I’ve been spoiled by the superior sushi at MF Buckhead. Expertly cut pieces of fatty tuna melt in your mouth. What appears to be a simple slice of hamachi is flavored with a whisper of chili oil and adorned with shaved jalapeno. Not only is the presentation beautiful, the astounding flavors can only be described as umami. And that doesn’t even touch on the deliciousness of the duck and fish prepared on the robata grill.
Pardon my rant, but I can assure you that tempura shrimp with asparagus and spicy mayo is not authentic sushi. It’s an American invention to suit the unsophisticated American palette, after all, I can’t imagine a redneck eating raw sea urchin.
And so the Americanization of sushi is not at all surprising. Ra Sushi, Ru Sans (the Walmart of sushi restaurants), and Genki are perfect examples of the popularity of the idea of sushi translated into something more accessible. With this preconceived notion bouncing ’round in my head, LC and I stepped into Genki’s Virginia Highland location.
When the weather is nice, there is nothing I enjoy more than dining on a lovely patio. Genki, like its neighbor Fontaine’s, has a patio out back but also offers front row seating at the open window facing N. Highland. I was surprised those seats weren’t taken, but when we sat down, I realized why….fans with the strength of jet engines blasted us from above. Required by the city to keep out bugs, the fan makes it impossible to enjoy people watching, much less, dainty slivers of raw fish.
So we moved to the patio out back. It’s actually a wrought iron balcony that overlooks the parking lot, the same one that serves Noche and La Tavola across the way. Although I wasn’t truly craving sushi, I had a taste for cold unfiltered sake. While seated in the window, LC insisted on ordering the cheese kari kari appetizer, a combination of imitation crab, cream cheese and red pepper that is battered and fried. I tried this horrific dish years ago and vowed to never allow it to cross my lips again.
I decided to order the BBQ ribs appetizer solely based upon the fact that it was served on a bed of their magical flash-fried crispy spinach, sprinkled with sugar and ginger. I used to visit the Buckhead Genki often with friends AA and SP, always ordering a few pieces of sushi and a whole bowl of the spinach….greasy, unhealthy, damn delicious! Make sure to bring dental floss if you plan on ordering it.
Although I couldn’t pinpoint anything Asian about them, the ribs were quite tasty, but of course, it was the fried spinach that made the dish. Unfortunately, the years had erased my distaste for the cheese kari kari so I took a bite. They should call it hari kari. I poured another tiny cup of sake. And another.
For our main course we decided to share two rolls. A creature of habit, I usually order the Dancing Eel roll which contains imitation crab and avocado, topped with grilled eel and sweet soy sauce. Genki’s version was as good as any, although I will have to admit this roll is pseushi….nothing raw, nothing authentic. The photo is scary….reminds me of Killer Clowns from Outer Space!
LC wanted to try the Virginia Highland roll made with spicy tuna and mango topped with escolar, avocado, raw jalapeno, and masago. Even the addition of the neon green wasabi didn’t make it spicy, but I was pleased with the combination of flavors and textures.
I was hoping to order a couple of additional small plates that I had not tried before, but alas, the rolls were enormous! LC suggested they offer 1/2 rolls….not a bad idea. So instead, I finished off my sake and ordered green tea ice cream, which was surprisingly made by High Road Craft Ice Cream, our local purveyor of specialty frozen treats. We both noted an overwhelming nutty flavor, perhaps from the rice powder High Road adds along with the green tea. Interesting.
For a neighborhood sushi stop, Genki does the trick, but it wouldn’t satisfy my craving for authentic sushi….if I had one.
1040 N. Highland Avenue 404-853-3315