Notes From Hairenik

Revised, May 29: A week ago we went to see the guys at The New Delhi and have a bite to eat. Apparently from what we were told, things are not working out there, as after only one week of doing business at Sharl El, the owner decided to change the menu, as apparently the Indian food was not selling well. This is a strange move since customers need to be given a chance to start trying the cuisine, then deciding for themselves if they enjoy it or want to choose something that is non-Indian. So the cafe will be focusing primarily on Thai cuisine, and I believe the menu has already been changed, but I may be mistaken. It's a shame really, but I suppose many Armenians are still having a hard time swaying from dolma and khorovadz, or Armenian barbeque. In any case, continue visiting the restaurant on Tumanyan Street.

Last year I wrote about a new Indian restaurant that I discovered called The New Delhi Restro-Bar, located on 29 Tumanyan Street across from Opera Park, just a stone’s throw away from the flower seller. The sign read that they offer a mixture of Indian, Chinese, Lebanese, and Armenian cuisine. When my wife and I went in we were the only ones in there if memory serves correctly—they had only been open for three weeks. I was clueless as to what to order from the Indian menu, so after asking me if I liked chicken the gentleman helping us suggested a couple of dishes, and we placed the order. Since then I have become addicted to their cuisine and frequent the place once or twice a week.

We befriended that gentleman, Sanjiv Savaille (aka Sam), who is the co-owner, and the head waiter, Jossi (aka Jacks), as we became dedicated customers and naturally formed a friendly relationship with them. Sanjiv and his fiancée even came to our wedding to deliver a special desert dish and share in the festivities. If we haven’t been by for one reason or another he calls to check up on us.

Apparently the link to my blog entry about The New Delhi was spread around and business tripled in a matter of a week. Although business is generally good in their location, as the place is frequented regularly by foreign workers as well as Indian students attending university, they were looking for ways to expand their horizons and promote their cuisine to a wider audience. By chance the owner of Sharm El, who opened an outdoor café along Sayat Nova Street in the Opera Park next to Astral, and who recently opened an indoor restaurant on the corner of Tumanyan and Nalbandyan Streets only a couple of months ago, called Sanjiv to propose an offer. She also was looking to widen the diversity of her clientele by offering an exotic menu including international dishes that can’t be found anywhere else in Armenia. Recently she heard about Sanjiv’s success and made him an offer to move his operations, including his full staff, to the outdoor Sharm El location. An open-air kitchen has already been built for them and they only began serving just a few days ago.

Sharm El was not known for its cuisine when it first opened last year, as the menu just didn’t seem very interesting. I went there once or twice but found it ordinary and expensive—it had as its main attractions interesting furniture with an Asian decorative flair and Persian/Middle Eastern water pipes or “nargile” for people to puff on. But that was it. Now that the guys at The New Delhi are effectively taking over the kitchen, there will be incentive to go very often.

Most of the Indian and Chinese meals that are found on The New Delhi menu are already being made available. Lebanese and Armenian offerings were long ago scrapped due to lack of interest. A notably large Thai cuisine offering is also available, with many of the dishes being served with prawns as well as crawfish, since there is an abundance of the bottom feeding sea creatures in parts of Armenia, notably in Lake Sevan. His sandwich menu, which features hamburgers and chicken sandwiches, is also very popular—the other day he apparently sold close to 50 burgers throughout the day. He told me they are real hamburgers, made from beef patties, rather than round pork ham cutlets as are often served by restaurant owners who have not bothered to understand what they really are. And Sharm El will apparently be open 24 hours a day, with everything on the menu being offered day and night.

Sanjiv is working out a way to install an outdoor tandoor to prepare Indian-style roasted chicken, lamb, and beef. The tandoor from what he explained is very delicate, with a round, clay cooking crevice similar to the Armenian tonir, but it rests above ground. Fiberglass as well as cement serve as outer shells to retain heat throughout the day, so once false move could effectively destroy it. He will also most likely serve the ever-coveted pork chop and small rib Armenian barbeque cooked in the tandoor, just as is done with the tonir in places throughout Armenia.

For now The New Delhi location will stay open but Sanjiv is uncertain as to how long. With the summer season approaching people will be more apt to sit outside, underneath huge canvas canopies and sitting on small wicker divans at Sharm El rather than filing into the ground-floor disco turned restaurant. There is also a section where people can sit at tables more suitable for dining, but again situated under the canopies so that you don’t get soaked when a summer thunderstorm suddenly bursts out of seemingly nowhere.

Anyway, I’m glad for Sanjiv and the rest of The New Delhi staff, and I expect that business will really take off. The New Delhi is undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in Yerevan in terms of originality, freshness of ingredients, and especially service. It’s also a great place to meet people you wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to elsewhere. The Sharm El setting will obviously have a different atmosphere, but expect the same excellent food and service.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
I hate to say this after your rave, but I actually prefer the food at the other Indian restaurant, Tandoori on Teryan. :-p
Still, I do hope Sharm El's Indian menu will be a success, because it is nice that there is an outdoor cafe that tries something different.