By Nata Brettell
You can go to a restaurant because they cook delicious food there. And you can want more and tell yourself ․ "I want to be surprised. I want not just delicious food, but amazement and intrigue. After all, I want high-quality cuisine. ”
Here, as everywhere, there are sensations, "wow" events, love stories and, of course, stars. One of them is Mads Resflud, a 44-year-old Dane from New York, the co-founder of the legendary Noma restaurant which "exploded" the world of high-quality cuisine in the 2000s. Moreover, Mads is at the root of New Nordic Cuisine—a revolutionary approach that brought Scandinavian cuisine to the world stage. In his portfolio is his own restaurant MR which was awarded the Michelin star, several books, and consulting from the Auberge Resorts Collection chain.
Slim, stylish, restrained. Mads starts the day with exercise. He has a large number of followers on Instagram, and, of course, a busy schedule. But the important thing is that the chef invests his philosophy in creating, shaping, and serving delicious combinations.
And Mads is in Armenia now. "Because it is interesting," he says. "The Tsaghkunk Restaurant & Glkhatun restaurant, which can be reached from Yerevan in one hour, organizes 10 dinners, each consisting of 15 dishes. The first took place on September 29 and started with a cocktail in the balcony—under the rays of the sunset. Then chandeliers were lit in the courtyard, and the operation began.
The guests were invited to Glkhatun, not far from the restaurant. Lights, music, food on barrels. Mads enters. He tells very touchingly how he and his team—two cooks from the US: Kane and Helen—cried, seeing for the first time how women bake the lavash bread in the tonir oven.
The beauty and authenticity of the old tradition, the connection with the soil and the roots influenced Mads' soul so much that he asked to cook vegetables and meat "in his tonir." According to him, if there were such an opportunity, he would definitely have a tonir in his restaurant.
Encouraged by experimenting with old technology, Mads invited us to try out the results of his work, and taste what he has chosen and loved by visiting local farms.
At Glkhatun we are greeted by beautiful Kane, who treats us to a wonderful quail broth with boiled apples and dried fruits. She is in a great mood, although she is wearing a light shirt in the cold wind of Lake Sevan.
The restaurant already has bouquets of laurel and wild flowers, candles and wooden furniture made by Armenian craftsmen. The waiters, who have passed a special master class, accompany us to the tables. The first appetizer is black caviar with walnuts and cream. It is served on leaves. It should be eaten with wooden spoons—and nothing else.
Then they bring the plates with cherry tomatoes. Mads has something like a khinkali in his hand. It turns out that it is tomato wrapped in a crape, and it has a special function. But I will not write a spoiler; the intrigue must be maintained. Surprise is part of the game.
We, the first guests, did not know the menu in advance. Moreover, it was kept secret from both the organizers and the restaurant team.
I had the exclusive right to walk around one of the markets in Yerevan with Meds. I watched how he tasted cheese, fruits, and got acquainted with our food. How he was asking, "Is this grown here or imported?" It was already clear that Mads would use only local products. The question is how.
And they bring the main dishes one after another. Mads' message: "Your product is great, the recipes are delicious, but let's play. Let's rearrange everything, put it in a new way and see what happens. Basturma? Perfect. But from venison wrapped in fruit. Grape leaves? Let's fry them. Ice cream? Let it be made of lavash.”
Sometimes it seems easy. But as is often the case, there is a lot of work and virtuosity behind the simplicity. I was told how Mads chooses food. He asked to bring the herb with roots, the berry—with tails, the animals—with heads. The followers of his experiments claim that the technique of preparing is a minutes’ count, the "understanding" of the components—amazing, on the verge of mysticism. As a result, we have harmony of texture, color, taste, and presentation. My personal highlight, which will be remembered for a long time, is my “must taste” two desserts: one is lavash ice cream, the other is delicate and romantic…I will not open the brackets, I will only say that apricot and sea buckthorn are among the components.
Courage, avant-garde approach, bold service. This is what I, as a restaurant visitor, often want to see in our restaurants. Going to dinner, I would like to know that I will be surprised to be offered what the modern culinary world lives and breathes. The visits of world chefs to Armenia, the exchange of experience is another driving force for the multidisciplinary development of the country—from the gastronomy and farming to the culture of conscious consumption.
Wine is a special magic. The list of wines was presented by wine guru Veronica Joy Rogov, whose portfolio includes Michelin star restaurants and many years of experience. Veronica begins to present, first telling about how she saw Armenia, how she felt. It deserves both respect and admiration for how our people have preserved their identity and traditions.
The visit of Mads and his team is part of a big project. On October 5, he will be joined by about ten journalists from the world media, who were selected at the Congress of Restaurateurs in Belgium. The agenda includes a visit to farms, acquaintance with local products, winemakers, and restaurants. The goal is to show the opportunities and potential of our country, its appeal for investments and tourism, and to present to the world in a contemporary, modern format.
Of course, Armenia has a lot to offer and surprise.
The development of Tsaghkunk village is implemented by DAR Foundation for Regional Development and Competitiveness—and within the framework of Gagarin program.
Photos by Arsen Sargsyan
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