Notes From Hairenik
February 7, 2009
Last weekend I was craving barbecue since I hadn’t had meat in over a week. I called my friend Loris to see if he wanted to grab something to eat. At mid-evening we met in front of the Caucasus Tavern on Hanrabedutyan Street which prepares great food but has notoriously bad service. It’s not unusual you have to wait upwards of 10 minutes for someone to appear with menus. Once I bizarrely endured waiting 45 minutes for the check after I had asked for it. But I couldn’t think of another reliable option nearby. He recommended a new spot that had just opened recently, a quiet place as he put it called Bridge, which was situated around the corner on the basement floor of an apartment building. I told him I wasn’t in the mood for the usual breaded cutlets and greasy beef stroganoff that the “bistros” located often below street level served up, but he assured me I wouldn’t be disappointed.

One step across the threshold confirmed that he was right. Bridge is a relatively small place, with two rooms—one serving as a dining area and the front room as sort of a café, where you can have a coffee or cocktail. It’s located on the short block of Khanjian Street between Tumanyan and Sayat Nova, adjacent to the tunnel that recently opened. The décor at first glance is very similar to a restaurant on the opposite side of the center of town called The Club—exposed basalt stone walls, weathered gray floorboards, wooden tables, soft incandescent lighting and candles. The bar area I noticed had pine-topped wrought iron tables made from old Singer sewing machine stands, the ones that operated the sewing mechanism with a floor pedal. That was a memory from childhood as we had one in our home. I noticed only after a few minutes that there was something subtle about the surroundings that made me feel very at ease, which I have rarely experienced at any dining establishment. The only other place that comes immediately to mind which had that same sort of aura was the now defunct New Delhi restaurant. Bridge was empty of customers, which was not altogether odd since there are at least six competing restaurants within a 300-meter walking distance.

We asked the maître d if they indeed served barbecue, which of course was a given. He suggested the pork chops which were a little on the large side since they were closer to the neck of the animal, and I agreed immediately although Loris was a tad suspicious. A chicken filet salad on the menu caught my eye and I also wanted some yoghurt, which he brought out first, followed by the salad a short time afterwards. The yoghurt was strained, and some diced cucumbers, hot pepper powder and mint was mixed in. The salad consisted of breaded strips of chicken breast lightly fried served on a bed of romaine lettuce that was tossed with dried plums, oil, lemon and spices. Both dishes were excellent, especially the salad which was unlike anything I have ever tasted. Soon the barbecue came out, lightly seasoned and moist, which accurately hit the famished spot. We washed it all down with carbonated mineral water and naturally, a fine chilled bottle of Russian vodka called Green Mark.

After we finished our meal the owner, Sos Sahakyan, came over to ask how we liked everything. Although Sos has a background in engineering he’s been working as a chef for over 20 years in various spots around Yerevan and in Russian cities throughout the 1990s. He has been operating the kitchen of many notable cafés and restaurants downtown, like Atlantic which is located on the Opera park. Sos offered us some tasty homemade semi-dry red wine which had hints of citrus and black currant. Then Loris feeling in high spirits walked over to the baby grand piano standing in one corner of the place to play some melodies which came immediately to mind, like the love theme from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Can’t think why he started with that, but he didn’t play it too badly. We were in there for well over two hours without realizing the time passing by and left shortly after eleven.

Last night we stopped by again but only for a beer and munched on green and black olives. Sos was a bit worried about a lack of clientele, although he’s only been open for less than two months. Bridge is the only place I can think of now where you can feel content simply by sitting and chatting, while listening to soft jazz played over the speakers performed by the likes of Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. I don’t necessary feel uncomfortable at other places I visit, nevertheless Bridge presents something unique to its customers—excellent food in a carefree atmosphere that radiates warmth, as far as Loris and I are concerned anyway. Bridge offers a variety of salads, traditional Armenian as well as European dishes and even some pizzas, at the usual prices you come by at nearly any restaurant here—between $5-10 per entrée.

On this blog I only promote, and rarely at that, spots to dine or drink that really impress me. Bridge by far is an exceptional café surrounded by a sea of unreliable and pretentious establishments. If you’re hungry and looking for a clean, respectable place to eat, you’re not going to be disappointed at Bridge by any means.

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