There was the appetizer of crunchy, glossy green seaweed strands, seasoned to perfection with sesame seeds and garlic.
And the soup made with a different, almost sheer type of seaweed and strips of bean curd had a similarly mysterious sea flavor and was no less appealing.
One of the menu's higher-priced items, a $9.95 combination of spinach noodles with vegetarian ham, imitation seafood and some bright vegetables, was an Asian spin on pasta primavera that also worked well. And Harmony's cloth tablecloths, sparkling glasses and pretty folded napkins still make me feel that I'm dining and not just fueling up.
What I found disappointing, however, was the sweetness and similarity of many of the dishes sampled at the recent meals.
Blindfolded, it would be difficult - impossible, maybe - to say which of the faux meats, fish and poultry items being tasted was supposed to be meat, poultry, beef, pork or seafood.
A dish labeled shredded pork (imitation) with spicy garlic sauce consisted of julienne strips of assorted materials - some crunchy, some firm, none especially meaty - in a sweet sauce that didn't taste particularly spicy or garlicky.
The imitation shrimp in a Szechuan-style dish were small slices of some gelatinous, translucent stuff in another sweet sauce that tasted rather like Italian-seasoned canned tomatoes and not particularly spicy or Szechuan. Bright green broccoli florets surrounding the saucy fake shrimp added a great deal of color and crunch but not much flavor. Two dishes, ordered at the same meal, tasted as though they'd been cooked in overused oil.
The stale-flavored oil reduced our enjoyment of coconut triangles, an appetizer of fried pastries stuffed with potato, taro, vegetarian ham and coconut. Used for frying the batter-coated mushrooms in a combination of mushrooms, carrots and broccoli, it put a similar damper on our appreciation of that dish.
Cold noodles with sesame sauce were disappointing in that the thick brown sauce on the fine, soft Chinese noodles seemed heavy and almost cloyingly sweet.
Sui Mei - plump, steamed dumplings open at the crown - were properly thin-skinned but conspicuously soggy, their flavor bland even after the boost given by the accompanying soy-vinegar dip.
Rice is an a la carte item here. At $1, the brown rice costs twice as much as the white but it's chewy, nutty and worth the difference.
If you want desserts, you'll have to look elsewhere. The fortune cookie that comes with your check is as dessert-y as Harmony gets.
Tea comes in oversized (for Chinatown) cups. Prepacked chopsticks are heavy plastic.
Service at both meals was efficient and courteous. I can't think of a single other restaurant where water glasses are so carefully watched and constantly refilled.
HARMONY VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT 135 North Ninth St.; 215-627-4520. Open: Sundays through Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays to midnight.
Price range: Entrees from $5.95 to $10.95.
Credit cards: Major cards.
Nonsmoking section: Yes.
Facilities for handicapped: No.
Atmosphere: A pleasant setting for meatless dining.