Dry fried eggplant at Tasty China
People will debate: Is it what it used to be? Is it as good as it once was? Is it is it is it? We'll tell you what it is: delicious. The thick french-fry-like, battered and fried sticks of eggplant have gone through a few incarnations, but the current one is as good as it comes. Crispy on the outside, creamy and piping-hot in the middle, and showered with cilantro, red pepper flakes and Szechuan peppercorns that leave your tongue all abuzz and your water tasting like seltzer. $13.95. 585 Franklin Road, Marietta. 770-419-9849. www.tastychina.net.
Mushroom bibimbap at Woo Nam Jeong Stone Bowl House
A huge black bowl arrives sizzling at your table, wafting the aroma of woodsy mushrooms. Stir the provided mound of shredded romaine lettuce into the crispy-edged rice, and add a slurp of sweetish soy sauce for a savory jumble that performs textural acrobatics in your mouth. $12.99. 5953 Buford Highway. 678-530-0844.
Orange apple tofu at Top Flr
This dish is all about smoosh and contrast — a slab of crispy fried tofu, the bracing fresh chomp of baby bok choy, and the intense tang of a thick Japanese eggplant miso purée. Yummers. $12. 674 Myrtle St. 404-685-3110. www.topflr.com.
Sunchoke purée at the Sound Table
A bowl of silken, sweet, earthy sunchokes comes topped with a perfectly poached egg, adding richness to decadence. A smattering of sautéed mushrooms lends bite, textural interest and sexy, woodsy appeal. $10. 483 Edgewood Ave. 404-835-2534. www.thesoundtable.com.
Vegetable plate at Restaurant Eugene
Take the best fresh veggies of the day, cook each one to bring out its absolute best, then pile them high in a skillet of garden delight. Depending on the season, the plate might include caramelized on the outside, creamy on the inside fairy-tale eggplants, or lightly fried rutabaga, or hunks of marinated deep magenta beets. Whatever you find, it'll feel like digging for treasure. $22. 2277 Peachtree Road. 404-355-0321. www.restauranteugene.com.