Earlier this month, we finally synched schedules with Emily and Adam of Spatial Drift and got to join them for supper. They’ve got a really fun lifestyle blog that I stumbled across while looking for links in the “other blog posts about” section that you see at the bottom of many of our entries here. A little over a year ago, Emily started a really neat project. Her goal has been to eat at every single restaurant on Buford Highway, starting at the southernmost, Pancho’s, and going north one by one.
Now, this corridor – and I say this principally for our many readers outside the city – has caught the imagination and enthusiasm of quite a few very good hobbyists in the Atlanta area, many of whom, like Chow Down Atlanta and Eat Buford Highway, have covered it very well and keep the rest of us inspired and enjoying the challenge of providing a good supplement to their work. That said, Spatial Drift is rapidly becoming the go-to source for the street. The depth and focus of their coverage is making theirs the best of a very good crowd.
Lately, they’ve been working through the Orient Center in Chamblee, the strip mall home of three places that we’ve already featured at our blog, Coco’s, Pho Bac, and Penang, along with a few other restaurants we have not visited yet. Our original plan had been to meet at Viet Tofu for supper, but it turns out that this little place is principally a take-out joint which would have shooed us out into the cold evening no sooner than we’d have sat down. More of a lunch idea, really. Well, they had covered Mini Hot Pot, and we’d done Coco’s and Pho Bac, and we’d both done Penang, so that left Harmony, a vegetarian place that opened in 1996 and looks exactly like every suburban Happy-This-Golden-That joint that you’ve ever seen. We engaged in some good-natured and silly grumbling about the lack of meat, but, heck, it’s not like this road isn’t completely full of Korean barbecue places for us to indulge in lots of meat some other evening.
I’m kind of stumbling over how to word this, but I guess it’s accurate to say that Harmony predates contemporary trends in vegetarian presentation, and, like many restaurants from its generation, sort of hides, politely, behind its intentions. By that I mean that if you were to visit The Grit in Athens, or The Wild Cow in Nashville, you will probably see a menu that goes into considerable detail about what it is serving, whether tofu or seitan or any other protein substitute. At Harmony, the menu is divided into the same subheadings as its suburban Happy-This-Golden-That ancestors, with chicken and beef and seafood sections and, for all the world, it looks like you’re just ordering Moo Goo Gai Pan and General Tso’s like you did when you were in college. There’s an explanatory disclaimer on the menu that assures guests that this is not done with the intention of deceit, but to give first-time vegetarians a sense of familiarity and allow them to be – we all loved this – “psychologically prepared.”
As for the food, well, it was all over the map. Some of it, like the salt and pepper “squid” appetizer that we shared, was extremely pleasing, and some of it, like the house special of “fish” with black bean sauce and a cherry, was hideous. The less said about the “fish” the better, but that “squid” completely trumped my minor hesitations and was seasoned just right. If it wasn’t as good as the amazing Crispy Golden Fried Squid a few doors down at Penang, then it was nevertheless done well enough to satisfy. I could have eaten a bucket of this.
Adam enjoyed his Kung Pao “chicken” and Emily was particularly happy with her Moo Shu “pork,” and I thought that my curry hot pot was pretty good. I considered ordering one of these protein dishes in a Halloween costume, but you know, something about it bothered me ever so slightly, and I just decided to stick with mixed vegetables and not worry about what was hiding under a pseudonym for fear of my delicate psychological preparation. The curry was very tasty and not too spicy, and while I might have thrown in less broccoli if I was cooking it for myself, I was pleased.
The other fumble was with the mushy and disappointing soup dumplings. Marie and I are not really very familiar with these, having only tried them twice before at other restaurants, but the ones that our friends received had the consistency of cold Nickelodeon Gak. So that’s two fumbles, two resounding triumphs, and two pretty good dishes. On the average, we did pretty well, but I’d certainly recommend that visitors come in a group so that several dishes can be sampled.
Other blog posts about Harmony:
You can see all the restaurants that we have visited for our blog on this map, with links back to the original blog posts. It’s terrific for anybody planning a road trip through the southeast!