A Good Spread
For best results, stick with the small plates.
Walnuts, pinenuts, and peppers are ground into a rich, buttery spread with the sweet-and-sour note of pomegranate molasses weaving them together.
The Armenian version of baba ghanouj, the lemony eggplant dip is lightly smoky with a hint of sesame and studded with pomegranate seeds that pop with sweet juice.
A creamy lentil pilaf comes peeking out from under a shower of sweet, crisply fried shallots.
Lentil Kefta ($9)
A Lentil Kefta ($9) made with pinenuts and bulgur wheat lacks brightness or texture, for that matter, unless you count the ridges left by the cook's fingers as the dumplings were formed.
Lentil Soup ($7)
My wife got totally lost in Almayass' Lentil Soup ($7), a thick, multi-layered bowl of comforting flavors—rice, lentils, and fried pita bread softened to a savory porridge-like consistency.
Beef Tongue ($13)
As president, founder, and sole member of the World Wide Association of Tongue Lovers, I can get behing the Beef Tongue ($13), which looks a little gristly, but melts into intense, beefy richness in your mouth with a simple dressing of garlic, lemon and olive oil.
Grilled Halloumi ($10)
It's tough to go wrong with salty Grilled Halloumi ($10). Rich slabs of squeaky cheese that seems more fried than grilled (not that I'm complaining).
Basterma Almayass ($11)
The lightly sour and well-seasoned Armenian pastrami variant known as Basterma ($11) was outstanding with its fried quail egg topping on one trip, but unfortunately overcooked on another. Similarly, soujuk ($10)—a salami-like sausage—was too overcooked to enjoy.
As with the lentil kefta, the fried Falafel ($7) was overly dense and underseasoned. More of that bright tahini, please.
The Mediterranean middle section of their menu is your best bet for meat and hot dishes. Little Ferri—fried quail—are a steal at $6. Crisp and juicy with an intensely lemony sauce flavored with garlic and pepper.
Chicken Wings Provençal ($12)
They eat chicken wings in Armenia? Apparently so, and they're excellent, with more of that lemony, garlicky sauce, and a big handful of cilantro added to the mix.
Lamb Sweet Breads ($14)
The Lamb Sweet Breads come in all of their creamy, glandular, offal glory—no crisp coatings or other ingredients to hide their nature here—all you've got is a lemony, olive oily, sumac-dusted broth that sops into their nooks and crannies like garlic butter into a snail.
Sweet and Sour Kebab ($29)
Of the four kebabs I tried, the Sweet and Sour ($29) was the only remotely enjoyable version, and only then because of the massive pile of sour cherries piled on top of the otherwise dry, bland meat.
Kafta Kebab ($22)
I'd strongly advise against heading into entree territory, but if you must, avoid the Kafta Kebab ($22) at all costs. Mind-blowingly dry beef served over improbably dry pita (despite a swipe of a spicy sauce), with a large handful chopped parsley (also dry), I practically begged my server for olive oil or a wedge of lemon—anything to add some moisture.
The space is divided in two down the center with the left side reserved for full service dining and the right side maintained as a bar and lounge. They have two separate entrances and strict segregation policies. On one visit, I wanted to dine alone and order off the regular menu. I was told that I must sit at the bar, where I could order off the bar menu. Eventually, the bartender had to ask me to leave and enter through the other door so that the hostess could walk me right back and re-seat me in the lounge area, with a full menu. It set a rather comedic tone for the rest of the meal.
Mint, rose, and coffee sorbet are all strangely stretchy and gummy with an intensely cloying sweetness.
Ossmalieh Almayass ($12)
I can't pretend to be a great judge of Middle Eastern desserts—they are an acquired taste for which I've just never acquired. I can say that I enjoyed the Ossmalieh Almayass ($12)—a next of crisp vermicelli soaked in milk and honey topped with a Cousin Itt like toupée of halva floss and a scattering of pistachios—far more than any of the three Sorbets (mint, rose, and coffe, $8), which were all far too syrupy sweet.