The new flagship restaurant from Genuine Concepts sets sail with an ambitious but underrealized menu.
Those of us who often dine out tend to catalog our favorite restaurants by mood and occasion. In my mental Rolodex, for example, are lunch-and-shopping restaurants, too-tired-to-cook restaurants, hang-out-over-brunch restaurants, mind-blowing-money-is-no-object restaurants… you get the picture.
The Genuine, a hat-to-spats makeover of The Vig Uptown, falls squarely into that neighborhood-y, too-tired-to-cook realm. Culinary director Jeremy Pacheco’s ambitious menu is undeniably trendy (think octopus, steak tartare and crudo), but the food lands squarely in decent-but-unmemorable territory. Foodie juices: not flowing.
If anything, it’s the remodeled space, a former mid-century bank designed by Phoenix architectural legend Ralph Haver, that leaves the greatest impression, thanks to concrete block dividers, vintage furniture and mosaic windows. Visually and atmospherically, it’s fabulous, and represents a stylistic upgrade from the other bars and restaurants owned by Tucker Woodbury and Jim Riley under the Genuine Concepts umbrella, while maintaining the brand’s cool-but-comfortable ethos.
Naturally, there are cocktails, the most noteworthy being the pale blue, coconutty Wipeout, made with coconut rum and blue curaçao. Bar snacks are also plentiful, labeled Meze to reflect the menu’s Middle Eastern bent. Given the wood-burning Forno Bravo oven near the front, I half-expected the wood-oven-roasted baba ganouj to be mesmerizing. It isn’t, but the puffy, blistered, house-made pita served with it certainly is. The same piping-hot flatbread plays sidekick to tender lamb meatballs nested in a tzatziki chunky with black pepper feta.
Also memorable is an arugula salad – messy-looking but rich with Green Goddess dressing, salty with fried capers and Pecorino and crunchy with Marcona almonds. Fire-roasted beets, sprinkled with pistachio dukkah and smoky blue cheese, can’t compete against dozens of better versions around town. Ditto for hamachi crudo, which suffers for the inevitable comparison to Valentine’s phenomenal hiramasa crudo. Fire-roasted broccoli with romesco lacks fire-roasted flavor, as does wild Mexican shrimp, seemingly absent of the tepin chiles and preserved lemon butter mentioned on the menu, absent, too, of any char or wood smoke.
On the plus side, funghi pizza, anointed with truffle oil and strewn with preserved mushrooms, creamed leeks and Pecorino, is wonderful. But is it enough to lure me back? Only if I lived near 16th Street and Bethany Home Road. Have at it, North-Centralers.
Cuisine: Modern American
Contact: 6015 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 602-633-1187, thegenuineaz.com
Hours: M-W 3-10 p.m., F 3-11 p.m., Sa 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Su 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Highlights: Lamb meatballs ($17); arugula salad ($13); funghi pizza ($17)