Food: Armagh Fisherman Soup. Courtesy photo


The chef at Armav knows how to put just the right details into the cooking style to make it both familiar and special

There are, in my not so humble opinion, too few ethnic restaurants on the Westside. This is especially true in the Pacific Palisades.

When Mr. Caruso populated the Palisades Center, he put in a hamburger restaurant, Hanks, even though there are hamburgers everywhere. He added yet another Italian restaurant when there are already dozens in the Palisades and Santa Monica. What we needed (and still do) was a good deli to replace Mort’s, and a good Chinese restaurant to replace the one that went out of business. They are both sorely missed.

Even in Santa Monica there is not much restaurant diversity. Seems like Italian, Sushi, and Mexican food are the dominating cuisines. I guess it’s hard to go wrong with these, but it would be nice to have other options!

One bright star is a place I recently frequented with my family and thoroughly enjoyed. Armav in the Palisades is a gem. It serves Armenian food, which I would say it’s a very tasty version of middle eastern cuisine. The chef at Armav knows how to put just the right details into the cooking style to make it both familiar and special. The restaurant took a while to get to the level it is now. Currently, it’s a great destination with excellent food and service. My family and I had a delicious dinner featuring many favorites such as hummus, cucumber salad, lentils, and spinach in filo dough. I was there last week as part of a Rotary Club event which coincided with my daughter’s birthday. What a fantastic feast we had!

We started with the Armav appetizer, which was enough for 6 of us. There was a separate plate of wonderful pita bread, and the appetizer plate with grape leaves, olives, pickled vegetables, feta cheese, three dips and some charcuterie. I would have preferred the dips on a separate plate just to make it easier to manipulate the pita bread into the dips. The stuffed grape leaves were my favorite.

As always in my family, two of us ordered salads. I only tasted the beet salad with goat cheese, which I found wonderful. No one ordered the avgolemono soup which looks very promising on the menu and is scheduled for my next visit, along with the local sea bass. I did go back the next night for the fisherman’s stew – this consisted of a delicious fish broth with a slight lemon flavor, in which were mussels, sea bass, scallops and two large tiger prawns. That was more than a dinner, it was an experience, and when I finally operated surgically on the tiger prawns, the tails were as delicious as a small lobster. What a treat! And the Armenian white wine went well with it.

The grilled chicken kebab was as expected, and well accompanied with delicious rice tabbouleh, vegetables, tomatoes, and some other side dishes. The Moroccan short ribs were tender – I loved the pearl couscous, glazed carrots, petal onions, and dates on the side.

Of course, eventually (two hours later), it was time to order dessert. Since there was no consensus among us, we ordered one of each. The baklava (they spell it paklova) was very tasty although different from what I’m accustomed to seeing, and a bit difficult to eat. The almond tart was the star attraction. It disappeared very quickly. The custard-like dessert with coconut threads was the only one not slurped up by everyone as fast as the others.

All in all, it was a delightful evening, and we enjoyed the service as well as going to a restaurant that serves dishes we rarely if ever make at home. We’ll be back soon.

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.

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