When Nate and I first moved to Atlanta in January 2011 we gorged ourselves on Harmony Vegetarian (Atlanta’s only – and best – pure vegan Chinese restaurant) on the regular. Like, I’m pretty sure we once went for lunch… and then again for dinner…on the same day. And going more than once a week was a common occurrence. We loved the simple ambiance, the sweet service, and the comforting old favorites made cruelty-free.
The flames of our love for Harmony tapered off as our infatuation for Green Sprout grew. Green Sprout is another amazing – though not totally vegan – vegetarian Chinese restaurant. Thanks to one Leigh S., I’m really into the crunchy spicy wok-seared “chicken” with lotus roots and other vegetables. I’m pretty sure GS is the only place in Atlanta where you can get vegan bubble tea in a rainbow of flavors – taro is #1 followed by mango, and one of the owners agrees. (She also agrees that honeydew maybe needs a little work – it is very floral!) We also love the proximity – not only is Green Sprout an easy drive, but it’s next to interesting places like Trader Joe’s and the Midtown Art Cinema. And not to give out ALL my secrets, but you should totally order the yuba-wrapped fish entree as an appetizer to share if there are three or more people in your party. It rules.
***Here’s my previous review of these two restaurants – with their menus – from 2011. The menus are only slightly out-of-date. I think everything you see can still be ordered, but they’ve added some new stuff, too. I’ll try to get updated menus posted soon.***
While Nate & I still love Green Sprout, we have returned to the welcoming arms of Harmony, where the prices are insanely low, the staff are always happy to see you, and where the Buford Highway Farmers’ Market is just down the road. And, we’ve now learned, they get really excited !! when you show an interest in traditional Chinese recipes.
Such was the case when I asked, recently, about a certain floppy fungus I’d been enjoying at Palace Dumpling in Wappinger’s Falls, New York. Black, jellylike, a bit rubbery, flavored with mustard and served cold, I described it – and the manager/host knew exactly what I was talking about. It’s called cloud ear fungus, or tree ear, or wood ear, depending on who you ask. She was pleased to learn that we liked it so much, but not that surprised, as we regularly ordered the more traditional Chinese favorites like bean curd skin rolls, leek dumplings, and black mushroom soup. She said to give them a call ahead next time we planned on visiting – they wanted to prepare a tree ear special for us!
And so we did.
And we arrived, and the table was already made up for us.
Yep, those are a couple of cookbooks on the table. I was making a list for the Buford Highway Farmers’ Market.
Our daikon-carrot slaw came on the special adorable plate. Bears! Baby bears! IN A BUBBLE BATH!
A new appetizer! Bean curd skin seaweed bites. Crispy, a little fishy, totally delicious. I’m not usually one for fishy flavors, but this is so tasty I give it a pass. Don’t miss the savory dipping sauce that it comes with.
We also ordered the fried squid appetizers, but no pictures of that one. It’s a relatively new appetizer that we’ve been enjoying. Little pieces of veggie squid are tightly rolled, battered, deep fried, and possibly also wok-tossed with spicy peppers. It’s served with a sweet dipping sauce.
The special salad! Served somewhat chilled and featuring bean curd skin (yuba), tree ear fungus, cilantro, fresh garlic, green bell peppers, and carrot, in a sweet-savory sauce that we both wanted to lick off the plate. It was so totally beyond divine. Henceforth I’m going to be calling ahead every time we visit.
The oddly-named “Steamed chicken with ham” is our new favorite entree. It’s great because it’s plenty large enough for two people to share and we always have leftovers. The gai lan (Chinese broccoli) is meltingly tender, as is the bean curd skin. The black mushrooms are pleasantly springy and everything is draped in a kind of Chinese bearnaise. The only thing I don’t really like is the veggie “ham”, but thankfully Nate loves it. More yuba for me, I says!
Bonus points for this dish: unlike pretty much everything else I’ve tried, this dish keeps and reheats really, really nicely. I’m even tempted to say it’s better the next day.
Harmony Vegetarian, my first love and my true love! Thank you for another special experience.