I love ethnic foods. Some, of course, are easily available – like Sushi, or Mexican foods. Some are hard to find. When I heard that an Armenian restaurant was opening in Pacific Palisades it made my heart warm and I licked my lips in anticipation.
Forbes recently listed Armenia as one of the 10 most underrated destinations to visit, so we can expect a few more Armenian restaurants as American tourists come back with tales of great foods from there.
So now we come to ARMAV, the new restaurant in Pacific Palisades that was advertised as an Armenian restaurant. That might be a slight exaggeration because while there are some ethnic foods on the menu, it’s been toned down to American tastes. There are good dips, charcuterie, feta, grape leaves, olives, pickled vegetable, and flatbread. That’s sort of Armenian, but I would call this more of a Mediterranean restaurant.
The well-prepared lamb chops and tarragon chicken skewers are very good but not very special to local tastes. And we’ve all had falafel with hummus, more Israeli than Armenian. The avgolemeno soup is very good, but something many of us have had in Greek restaurants. The kebabs are very good, and popular in Armenia, but available in all the Persian restaurants all over Los Angeles.
The best two dishes here to my taste were the Moroccan short rib, which, as Michelin would say, is “worth the trip” and the Fisherman’s stew, which while common all over Los Angeles is very good here.
The restaurant is blessed with an excellent chef. Olivier Rousselle has worked in Paris, London, South Africa, and more recently at Michael’s in Santa Monica. And so, the food at Armav is well prepared. But I’m hoping Chef Olivier and the Armenian owner Kim Kedeshian will expand the menu a bit to include some of the Armenian dishes that are special to the region and not familiar to local foodies, such as:
• Dabgadz Banir Boerag, a flaky puff pastry filled with various cheeses, is similar to Greek spanakopita.
• Topik is a chickpea dumpling, with a filling of onion, dried blackcurrants, pine nuts, stirred tahini, cinnamon, sugar, salt, and ground pimento. Yummy!
• Manti is little boats of dough filled with ground lamb or beef, onion and parsley, then roasted. Then red pepper and tomato paste are basted over it and the dish is cooked in the oven until the sauce is absorbed. Served with yogurt and garlic, it is one of my favorites.
When I was last at the restaurant only one dessert was on the list, a “trio” that sounded really good. I’ll try it soon. Since the owner owns a bakery I expect more will come.
I was glad I brought my own wine, since there were no Armenian wines on the list and what was on the list was not very interesting at those prices.
All in all, this is a promising restaurant with plenty of good dishes, but don’t go if you are expecting exotic Armenian dishes — at least not yet.
970 Monument Street #119
Pacific Palisades, CA, 90272
Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3d edition” is available on Amazon. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Please send your comments to: email@example.com