Armenia is a gastronomy paradise, and when live music is combined with old instruments, we are clearly at the Kamancha restaurant in the heart of Yerevan. Under the light of copper lamps, family and friends, Armenians and their guests, gather to enjoy one of the best culinary offerings of this city. We were glad that no special food was prepared for us, the hungry journalists, but we were given a menu where we did not manage quickly. However, with one look at the kitchen, which is seen behind the glass wall, it is clear that there is nothing hidden in Kamancha.
With the sounds of Armenian chansons, soon to be replaced by a live orchestra, we drink Artsakh vodka from apricot. The fruity taste of vodka is irresistibly drawn to the apricot crust, a fruit so popular and ubiquitous in Armenia that it has become a national symbol of the country. In addition to apricot, it is also advisable to take mulberry vodka, which is also a favourite in Armenia. While sipping a generous amount of vodka, we enjoy the space where wood prevails, in two large halls, but where the owner's effort to blend the traditional with the modern, originally urban, is evident. It manages to do so very well, and the name itself says a lot about that vision.
Kamancha is a stringed musical instrument used in Armenian, Iranian, Turkish and Kurdish traditional music, and anyone who plays kamancha is also part of the art that has been added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Heritage. An old kamancha stands proudly in the lobby of the restaurant, where we were greeted by the host and her co-workers, and it is very likely that you will hear her lively sounds live on a stage that continues pleasantly into one of the halls. In just half an hour, the hall is filled with guests, and many Europeans will notice that full enjoyment is allowed in Armenia, meaning smoking is permissible in restaurants.
For an appetizer, we decided on what our neighbours in Bosnia would call colourful dolma, or a combination of meat-stuffed vegetables, which in Armenia is called tolma. On this plate, there was a classic tolma in wine leaves, then filled in a cabbage (we would call it sarma), but there were also pepper and aubergines, which in Armenia is called the summer season for clear reasons for the seasonality of these vegetables. The tolma is made masterfully, as the vegetables are neither too soft nor too hard, and the excellent sauce is perhaps the best we have tasted since the huge number of tolma in Armenia. With it we tries gorgeous matsun, a beautiful garlic yogurt.
Professional waiters and waitresses run all around us, in fine suits, and easily serve very elaborate dishes that are sometimes flambéed in front of the guest. A large selection of meat dishes and grills lures guests to Kamanche tables, and visitors can also watch the phenomenally delicious bread taken from the large ovens, elaborate tandoors, stored in canvas bags and brought in front of eager guests. The most popular dishes are actually brands and many come to Kamancha just for them. They recommended us cooked lamb with rice and vegetables, and they made no mistake. The waitress expertly cleans the meat from the bones of the lamb, to get a soft meat full of flavour and to enjoy a warm and satisfying meal. Just in case, we grabbed the matsun before it was taken off the table, which brought an extra mix of flavours.
In addition, we drank very special Armenian pomegranate wine. The beautiful copper colour of this wine gives off a wonderful aroma of this royal fruit, and it tastes semi-sweet, with the unmistakable sourdough finish in the background. This Voskevaz has 12 percent alcohol and is simply a fascinating wine even for those who are not overly fond of fruit wines. We never doubted that Kamancha has a whole range of Armenian wines, as well as other Caucasian and world oenological hits in its wine list. A view of the bar next to the kitchen reveals a series of other alcoholic fortunes, though we did not see any guests staying there.
For some reason we were very sympathetic to the staff, so they made a dessert masterpiece. The truly masterfully made plate had the intention of showing what sweet Armenia was. Around the wine jug, on which the grapes hang, were baklava, chocolate cake with strawberries, kadaif, nuts and honey, oranges, halva, pressed apricot lavash, garnished with fresh mint and whole cinnamon. The photo for lasting memory opened our eyes even more, but the body did not withstand such a huge rush of sweet delicacies.
Someone in Armenia told us that cuisine means "creative idea". If this is true, then it can very well be confirmed in Kamancha. Chef and his team make every effort to showcase the hidden charms of Armenian cuisine, and this restaurant is certainly an indispensable culinary visit to Yerevan.
23 Tumanyan, Yerevan, Armenia