The Michelin Guide published an article about the only Armenian restaurant in the US that was included in the prestigious culinary guide.
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«Armenian cuisine dates back thousands of years. Sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Armenia has unique culinary traditions that have blossomed throughout centuries of history. Below, we do a deep dive on the MICHELIN Guide's only Armenian restaurant in the United States, located just outside of Los Angeles in Glendale, California.
Zhengyalov Hatz has brought a piece of that gastronomic heritage to America with its only main menu item, zhingyalov hats. I ask why there’s only one menu item, and owner Vresh Osipian explains simply, “It’s my favorite food. Zhingyal means greens, and hats means bread. It's bread with herbs.”
He’s excited to share his culture with me. “Armenian food is unique with a big personality. Our recipes have been passed down from generation to generation, from families a long time ago. Originally, when people had nothing to eat, they found little flowers and greens. They made some lavash and put the greens inside to feed the children.”
Despite the streamlined offerings, Osipian is hardly new to the culinary scene. He had previously opened several Zhengyalov Hatz locations in Yerevan, Armenia and Moscow, Russia. Visiting Glendale years ago, Osipian was inspired to share his favorite food with America, with, “the purpose to bring food here that is very popular and loved in Armenia.”
Eating at the restaurant transports diners to Armenia. “We have exactly the same design as our restaurants in Yerevan," says Osipian. "It’s a national and traditional style of 'Old Yerevan', our capital.” He shows me a newly framed photo on the wall that depicts an ancient Armenian family baking thin lavash bread in an underground tonir oven.
And despite the volume—Zhengyalov Hatz makes hundreds of fresh zhingyalov hats daily—they hit with customers every time and combat waste through knowing their audience. “Every day, we receive fresh greens from Fresno. We never keep leftovers overnight, so we order the approximate right amount for each day.”
So what's the secret sauce behind Zhengyalov Hatz's delectable dish? “It’s completely vegan with spinach, green chard, red chard, cilantro, dill, sorrel, chervil, white onion, and more. All together, twelve different types of herbs.” Since different families have different recipes, there’s no one correct way to make zhingyalov hats. “Everyone chooses their own recipe. For our greens, we don’t use parsley or garlic.”
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“It takes less than a minute to make this bread because the dough is very clean," says Osipian. "The herbs are finely chopped, and then we add sunflower oil and some seasoning.”
It's important to note where the chef comes from, as after four years in Los Angeles, Zhengyalov Hatz has built a loyal following, but also expanded their customers and staff beyond Armenians. "We have a lot of excellent chefs and customers, not only Armenian. All different nationalities.”
Enhancing the traditional flavors of the flatbread are the other offerings—all of which are vegetarian—including okroshka, made from cucumbers and dill, and paxlava, their take on the Greek baklava. "We make our paklava from scratch and use honey, not sugar, so it’s not too sweet," adds Osipian. The vibe, is meant to be more homestyle Armenian than modern, cultural mecca. “Everything is Armenian. We have Armenian music playing all day, and some people say it’s like going to grandma’s house. Same food and same environment. It brings back a lot of memories.”
And beyond the plate, therein lies the true secret sauce behind Zhengyalov Hatz; its celebration of Armenian culture across all touchpoints. "Armenia became the first Christian nation in the world, starting in the year 303. We have old churches, and Yerevan is a beautiful, bright city. A lot of trees, a lot of parks, a lot of sights to see. Welcome to Armenia.” Coming up soon will be an expanded menu including more of the meat-centric dishes of the region. “We’re working now to add Armenian lahmajun or shawarma—more meaty stuff—because [we received] a lot of requests.”
And despite the press and accolades from the food world, Osipian and the restaurant's focus remains the same as when they opened their doors: “be friendly to everybody.” And done in delicious fashion, naturally».
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