This week we teamed up with Grant and Marie of Marie, Let’s Eat for a lovely dinner at Harmony, a vegetarian chinese restaurant. Perhaps you’ve seen their epicurean conquests on Urbanspoon, where Marie, Let’s Eat is ranked #3 for all Atlanta-area blogs (and in the top 100 for all blogs there). If you’re not familiar with the website, I highly recommend heading over there for their many excellent posts about food joints all over the southeast.
Stepping in from the surprisingly cold evening air, we were quickly and cordially greeted and seated. I’m not sure how to talk about the general decor. It was clean and well-kept, and outdated in a way that reminds me of someone’s country kitchen in the late 80s or early 90s. But that’s okay, ‘cuz it’s the food that matters most, right?
The menu opens with a long explanation of Harmony’s philosophy regarding vegetarianism, and the particular approach they have taken with the food they serve. It was interesting and informative.
The approach they take with the food here is to have as complete a menu as possible, and to show off the diversity of dishes that can be made vegetarian by way of tofu. The menu reads like a typical chinese food menu, complete with sections for each of the various “meats.”
Grant and Marie ordered the salt and pepper “squid” appetizer. They kindly shared, and Adam and I thought it was fantastic! I actually forgot it wasn’t squid until the waitress came by and asked how we liked the squid. So as far as that dish is concerned, I think it was very successful, both in being tasty and making me forget that it wasn’t squid cut in the style of the squid sambal at Penang.
Having had and adored Shanghai dumplings both at Chef Liu’s and Shanghai Cuisine in New York, we just had to grab these babies for our appetizer ($3.95). Unfortunately, they didn’t live up to expectations. The arrived looking dubious – the dumplings had kind of spread out, collapsing the tops, and they looked a little gooey.
They were indeed gooey, and those that had touched were difficult to separate. Since the tops had collapsed, it was very difficult to bite the tops off the way you are supposed to. In the end, this didn’t really matter, since most of of the soup was absorbed by the veggies, which had gone all soft, so there was nothing to cool off or to spill. I was disappointed. Perhaps this would be another case where emulating meat dishes more closely would be appropriate? Some tofu to give them shape and float in the soup rather than absorb it and go all mushy, perhaps.
My main entrée was not a disappointment, however! I got the moo shu “pork” ($8.50). It was so sumptuous that I ate way too much of it. I enjoyed every aspect of it, from the filling to the wraps to the sauce (which I poured on our leftover rice for breakfast the next day, yum), and I felt that the imitation pork was just as amazing an approximation as the “squid” had been. It was, as Adam says, “spot-on.”
The kung pao chicken ($8.25) that Adam ordered was also good. I have had kung pao that I enjoyed more, and the “chicken” wasn’t quite as good a meat impostor as the “pork” and “squid” were. It was close, but just a little off. However, the dish overall was still tasty!
Grant seemed to feel that his vegetable curry ($7.95) was fine enough but not amazing, and neither he nor Marie liked the faux fish with black bean sauce ($9.50) at all. Bummer. (For a more accurate explanation of their opinion, see their post.)
The apportioning was more than adequate – we had leftover rice, plenty of kung pao, and some moo shu for later.
Overall, if this were a plain old chinese restaurant that didn’t specialize in faux meats, it would probably be considered solidly average. However, given that we frequently forgot we were eating meat, we feel that Harmony is on to something special.
If you are vegetarian, I definitely encourage you to get to Harmony as quickly as possible. If you’re an ex-veggie, or ex-carnivore who has consistently eaten chinese food, I think it would be fun to compare and contrast the classic menu items. The meats are emulated so well that I think Harmony would make an excellent place for a mixed group of vegetarians and carnivores to eat together. Give it a try. 3.5 stars.
Harmony Vegetarian Chinese Restaurant
4897 Buford Hwy, Suite 109
Chamblee, GA 30341