One of my absolute, all-time favorite comfort food dishes is served at Genki. They have a mix-and-match menu of noodle bowls (pick your noodle, your preparation style and topping) and years ago, I stumbled on a combination that I've craved ever since.
It's a steaming bowl of soba noodles topped with stir-fried vegetables and chunks of deep-fried tofu. Doesn't sound like much, I know, but there's something irresistible and deeply satisfying about the combination. It's deeply flavored but not spicy, with a garlicky-sweet sauce clinging to the noodles. Still-crisp veggies are caramelized on the edges. Chunks of silky tofu, coated in panko and fried till golden, perch on top. Every time I find myself at Genki, I vow to try something new, but I can't help myself. I'm a slave to the fried tofu.
Genki's vast Japanese-inspired menu ranges from yakitori (grilled meats and vegetables on skewers) to the aforementioned noodle bowls to sushi. An entire section of the menu is devoted just to tuna. Then there are the appetizers, which, truthfully, are a bit mind-boggling. The problem with big menus like this is that there's too much margin for error. Tuna aioli looked and sounded like a winner -- a mound of diced raw tuna mixed with garlic-chili aioli and served with crispy wonton chips for dipping -- but the spicy aioli couldn't mask the tuna's fibrous, chewy texture. An order of fried gyoza, stuffed with mealy and tasteless pork filling, likewise fell flat.
Thank goodness for the yakitori. Yakitori has the same appeal as tapas and could be the next craze if someone put their mind to it. The tiered yakitori menu is geared toward sampling, with skewers at three prices ($1, $1.50 or $2 per skewer). One could easily make a meal of nothing but these tasty tidbits on a stick. Especially appealing are the charred beef and scallion and the bacon and asparagus combinations.
With its high-decibel music and hard-charging crowd, Genki isn't a restaurant you'd call low-key. The place is a zoo on weekend nights, as Buckhead twenty- and thirtysomethings land here for a round of sake and sushi before launching into late-night party mode. Even on a relatively sedate Sunday night, the girls populating Genki's patio are in full look-at-me mode in their stilettos, low-cut camisoles and tight jeans. I'm not much for that sort of scene, so I just focus my attention on the noodles -- slurp, slurp ... sigh of contentment.
Break Fast at the Fez
Throughout the month of Ramadan, Imperial Fez welcomes observers to break their daily fast with a special a la carte menu. Beginning Wed., Oct. 4, the restaurant will offer a ceremonial meal that will begin at sunset each night and last for one hour. 2285 Peachtree Road. 404-351-0870. www.imperialfez.com.
The second annual Harvest Midtown Festival takes place Sat., Oct. 8. The revelry will take place from noon-5 p.m. along Fifth Street between West Peachtree and Peachtree streets. A bevy of Midtown restaurants are participating this year, including the Food Studio, Eno, Cherry, MidCity Cuisine, Mitra, Oceanaire, One Midtown Kitchen, Piebar, Sampan, Silk, Spice, Sotto Sotto, South City Kitchen, Toast, Two Urban Licks, Vinocity and Woodfire Grill. More than 100 wines will highlight every major growing region in the world. Tickets are $45 in advance and $55 at the door. Tickets for the VIP Vintner's Area (which will feature reserve label wines and passed hors d'oeuvres inside Eno) are $75. For tickets, call 404-841-8335. www.harvestmidtown.com.
Midtown's newest hot spot, the Globe, will host the Atlanta's Table Supper Club on Tues., Oct. 11. The monthly dining series benefits the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The Globe will donate 20 percent of the evening's proceeds to Atlanta's Table, the prepared food project of the ACFB. 75 Fifth St. 404-541-1487. www.globeatlanta.com.
Midtown seems to be where it's at this month ... Spice on Juniper will host a Silver Oak wine dinner Thurs., Oct. 20. Silver Oak is known for its palate-pleasing Cabernets. The dinner will include cocktails and appetizers followed by a five-course dinner paired with wines. The price is $95 per person. 793 Juniper St. 404-875-4242. www.spicerestaurant.com.