I often joke that I came into this life to travel and eat delicious food.
Any trip for me is not just a trip. It is always a gastro-journey.
Well, if we are talking about Armenia, it is always much more. And Yerevan-jan! How delicious is he!
This time I decided to make a guide to the restaurants of MBG Hospitality, founded in 2013 by Karen Markaryan and uniting 8 restaurants of European and Armenian cuisine: Louis Charden, Hans&Franz, Alaska by Hans&Franz, Chinar, Vostan by Tsirani”, “Tsirani Home”, “Tsirani Garden” and “White Hall by Tsirani” (the last two are located near Yerevan, in the village of Arinj)
My breakfast starts at the Chinar restaurant at 28 Moskovyan Street, which has an excellent selection of a wide variety of scrambled eggs. There are about ten of them on the menu, and everything is like a choice: scrambled eggs with basturma, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, scrambled eggs with kavurma, etc. As well as several types of pancakes – I recommend trying them with cottage cheese and berries. I choose scrambled eggs with kavurma, which is called Armenian stew. The beef is boiled and transferred to jars with butter. Kavurma is often prepared for the winter and eaten mainly in winter. The dish is hearty and heavy. In “Chinar” it is made at the request of the client with scrambled eggs or in the form of an omelette.
As for drinks, you should try fresh or compote, about which you can sing a beautiful Armenian song. It can be from feijoa, quince, dogwood, currant, peach – the presence of one or another compote determines seasonality. And, of course, tea with thyme or urts (thyme in Armenian) – without it, there is nowhere in Armenia. Someone drinks it in its pure form, someone in combination with black tea. For tea, I often order jam – there is also a whole range of flavors: white cherries, dogwood, walnuts, etc.
One of the restaurant’s signature national dishes, which is recommended to try in this restaurant for lunch, is buglama. In a large frying pan, pork, veal or chicken meat is fried until half cooked, then again with vegetables, onions and potatoes, then covered with dough and sent to the oven for about twelve minutes for steaming.
Another interesting national dish is Tatar-boraki: square pieces of dough that are boiled and topped with matsun with garlic and fried onions. The dish is historically considered a dish of poor Armenians, who did not have the opportunity to add meat to the dish. But the taste of the dish, despite this, is quite rich. This dish is made to order. By the way, the chef of the restaurant, which is unusual for Armenia, is a woman, Anna Hambardzumyan. And only in this restaurant, the wishes of the guests are taken into account and when ordering, they can be voiced and transferred to the kitchen.
After such a breakfast, there is no place left in the stomach to try something else, but MBG Hospitality restaurants are worth making an effort on yourself: for example, climb the Cascade, which is a stone’s throw from Chinar, to shake up this breakfast . After walking around the Cascade and its galleries, you can go shopping at the clothing store from Armenian designers “5 consept”, which has moved to a new location on Sayat-Nova Street, 5 (even the wife of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan likes to visit here, by the way) and buy a couple of dresses from Zgest (Alla Pavlova) and leather jewelry from NL (Nelli Nazaryan).
Well, then head to the church of St. Anna on Abovyan, one of the oldest and favorite streets of the city for me. It stretches for 1.6 km and bears the name of the Armenian writer and educator of the 19th century. Khachatur Abovyan. Previously, the street was called Astafievskaya, even earlier – Fortress. When I walk along it, I often think about my great-great-grandfather, the writer Alexander Shirvanzade, and how he walked along it to meet the writer Yeghishe Charents, who lived at the Grand Hotel Yerevan. My legs themselves bring me there, to the Grand Hotel – to the square near the Moskva cinema: to sit by the fountain “Signs of the Zodiac”, listen to the musicians who often play here, watch the children playing with giant black and white chess, hurrying somewhere then Yerevan residents stopping to drink water from a pulpulyak – a fountain with drinking water, go to the Dalan gallery for souvenirs, look through the books of Armenian poets in the Zangag book house and go for lunch to the Vostan restaurant located in a historical building (the former house Barsegh Yegizaryan – a merchant and public figure) on Abovyan Street, 8. This magnificent building with a 135-year history is a two-story, exquisite house made of black tufa with an abundance of arches and patterns, is rightfully considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Yerevan of that period. The restaurant building was built by the architect Vasily Mirzoyan in 1884, and in 2017 the abandoned and forgotten architectural monument was renovated, retaining the original architectural solutions: stairs, floor mosaics, windows and other ancient elements. Then the Vostan restaurant opened its doors here.
After the restoration, the traditional Armenian courtyard of the restaurant became very popular with guests, thanks to the special cozy atmosphere, old wooden balconies, old mulberry that grows right in the courtyard. On the second floor of the restaurant, through transparent windows, you can watch the process of baking Armenian bread and lavash.
As an appetizer, I choose a special snack set. These branded sets are a feature of MBG Hospitality. There are several types of them. In one set (such, for example, can be found in Hans & Franz, Tsirani Home, and Vostan) – the best snacks of Armenian cuisine: here are imam-bayaldi, and beans, and hummus, and pate, and eggplant caviar, and adjika.
At the time of my visit, the season of GARUN (a play on words from “spring” and “lamb”) is in full swing in the restaurants of this chain, and I am happy to try lamb tenderloin (gar in Armenian) cooked in 10 minutes on a hot basalt stone that heats up 5 hours until the desired temperature, washing down all this splendor with Tus wine from Tavush.
For me, a ram by the sign of the zodiac, there is some symbolism in this eating: Armenia is the country of the sun, in which the cult of Aries, the first of the signs of the zodiac, whose element is fire, has existed since ancient times. The museum of Armenia will tell you a lot about this: among the exhibits you will even see ram-shaped hearths or ram-shaped dragon stones. And feasting on lamb meat, we in some way connect through this ritual with the main animal of the Armenian land, thanking him, as Buddhists do, for feeding us and sending his spirit to the light.
For dinner, I go to the Tsirani Home restaurant on Northern Avenue, 5 – a stone’s throw from the Ibis Yerevan Center hotel, where I stayed this time. The hotel belongs to the Accor Hotels chain, which also includes Sofitel and Novotel hotels. An excellent option for leisure or business travel, with several conference rooms of different sizes, underground parking, a large restaurant with a wide selection of breakfasts and a bar on a spacious veranda from which you can relax to watch what is happening on the busiest pedestrian street in the city. If people walk along Abovyan more relaxed, then people always walk a little faster along Northern Avenue – the business spirit of this street is felt great.
But Tsirani Home awaits me with its bright interiors, the sounds of the canon, the aroma of homemade bread and meat on a spit. All this disposes fans of classical Armenian cuisine to a leisurely meal with warm toasts for guests and friends. In addition to the traditional snack set with homemade red wine ” Tsirani, I choose boiled trout cooked according to a summer recipe with potatoes and vegetables, which goes well with Koor dry white wine. Well, how to do without branded apple-pomegranate lemonade? And for those who like stronger drinks, it is worth getting acquainted with the rich palette of Armenian homemade vodka.
The next day, my “gastro” tour continues, and I go for breakfast at the Louis Charden cafe at 11/9 Amiryan Street, to the right of the Republika Hotel. It’s a French-style cafe where I choose Breakfast in Madrid, which includes moutabal, hummus, tabouleh, yogurt and fresh juice in addition to the classic French croissant. And by the way, brioche “Benedict” with salmon also deserves special attention. On the ground floor of the cafe there is a bakery shop, French bread and classic desserts. So, if you do not have time to have breakfast, then it is quite possible to take a croissant and coffee to go or treat your friends to pastries if you are going to visit.
After such a hearty breakfast, I go for a walk around the city: I turn onto Misrop Mashtots Avenue, the creator of the Armenian alphabet, walk along it to another Pushkin street I love, walk along it to Saryan – the main wine street of Yerevan, where the wine festival is held annually, in which all the restaurants of the city participate.
Well, be sure to visit the house-museum of Martiros Saryan, one of the great artists of the 20th century and the largest figure of the Armenian fine arts, who skillfully combined the pictorial traditions of the East with the new achievements of European art of the 20th century.
Well, having filled with wonderful things and sent a few postcards to friends from the main post office, which is also located on this street, I go for lunch to the first steakhouse in Armenia “Hans & Franz” on Saryan, 8. Here, classic steaks are cooked from the meat of local animals, which is up to is still the main feature of the most brutal restaurant on Saryan’s wine street. The restaurant’s kitchen has about ten types of steak and the same number of other grilled meat dishes. Gourmets will find here 12 types of steak and about 10 types of grilled dishes. You should also try branded drinks: horseradish, lemonades and, of course, local wine, which perfectly sets off the taste of meat. “Caesar a la Chef” is also not bad at all, and the T-Bone steak with dry red Nuraz from Voskevaz wineries is beyond praise. By the way, this winery near Mount Aragats deserves a special visit, because it is not exactly a winery, but also an interesting museum.
Well, dinner. Not! Delicious dinner at “Alaska by Hans&Franz” at 64 Aram Street, which is a stone’s throw from Saryan Street. The “little sister” of Hans & Franz, Alaska is the meat and seafood realm of the rich Alaskan cuisine. In the history of the name of the restaurant there is a legend about two comrades, the butcher Hans and the master of sauces Franz, who, returning from a long journey, decided to establish their second restaurant in Yerevan. Inspired by nature and the tastes of Alaska, in their new project they present new recipes found during their journey.
There are several traditional snack sets on the menu, this time I choose “River, Sea, Ocean”, which includes mussels, herring, cod liver, smoked sturgeon and red caviar. I also recommend caramelized eggplants, Aleut salad with roast beef and Asian broccoli for appetizers.
And for the main course – a “fire show” called Alaska tiger prawns with chili sauce, the contemplation of which is already a special pleasure, especially if you watch it with a glass of white Van Ardi Kangun 2018, which combines delicate aromas of tropical fruits: quince, pear, green apple. The Van Ardi wine series includes 3 varieties: dry red, white and rosé wines. These drinks are made from Kangun, Areni, Kakhet, Haghtanak and Sirakh varieties. For the production of this wine grapes are harvested exclusively by hand and processed using modern Italian equipment. For aging, French and Armenian oak barrels are used.
The history of winemaking in Armenia, by the way, has more than 6000 years. This is evidenced by numerous archaeological finds, especially in the caves near the village of Areni, where philanthropist and famous designer James Tufenkian, owner of the Tufenkian chain, plans to build his new and largest hotel in Armenia, specializing in wine therapy. But that’s a completely different story…
In the meantime, I just raise my glass and once again thank Armenia for the hospitality!