Sail away in an armenian ark
By Adam Federman
SPECIAL TO THE ST. PETERSBURG TIMES
St Petersburg Times, Russia, Russia
June 4 2004
The final page of the menu at Noyan Tapan (Noah’s Ark) is a list
of prices for broken dishware. One-hundred and fifty rubles for a
ceramic mug, 300 rubles ($5-$10) for an earthenware plate, and so on.
Perhaps it’s a gentle warning designed to limit the amount of Armenian
cognac consumed or just a pragmatic response to previous mishaps.
Anyway, the oversized oil painting of Noah descending with his flock
from Mount Ararat, seemingly into the dining room itself, will put
you on guard before you even get to the menu. Mount Ararat – a dormant
volcano nearly 17,000 feet high in northeastern Turkey and ten miles
from the Armenian border -is believed by many to be the final resting
place of Noah’s Ark. Whether you’re taken by such myths or not it’s
a good reason to raise a glass in honor of the biblical story and
in honor of God’s destruction of the earth. Or just in honor of
Finding something to fill your glass with isn’t difficult given that
Armenia is home to over 200 varieties of grapes, most of them native
to the region. One of the most well-known grapes is the areni from
the Vayats Dzor region. A bottle bearing the name of the grape is
390 rubles ($13.44) and is a good dry table wine.
Noyan Tapan also has close to fifteen varieties of Armenian cognac,
though not all were available. The otbornoi select is 85 rubles ($2.93)
for 50 grams or 850 rubles ($29.31) for a bottle. The three-star
Ararat is 55 rubles ($1.89) for the same amount and the seven-star
80 rubles ($2.75) . The number of stars denotes the number of years
the cognac has been fermented. Armenian cognac has long been highly
regarded and won its first Grand-Prix gold medal in France in 1904.
It’s best to start with the wine and save the cognac for the end of
the meal, even if by that point there’s a greater risk of dropping
a glass or throwing a plate at your partner. Cognac, especially good
cognac, is best sipped without the distracting flavors of food.
The menu at Noyan Tapan is a mix of Russian and Armenian cuisine.
They have everything from kholodets, meat in aspic jelly (39 rubles,
$1.34), to hot and cold borshch (50 and 60 rubles, $1.72, $2.06),
and anumber of Russian salads.
The tolma (92 rubles, $3.17) – rice and meat wrapped in vine leaves
served warm with a light sour cream – were as good as any in the
city. The shorba (65 rubles, $2.24) – a beef soup with garbanzo
beans and potatoes – is good rainy day fare. Its garlicky broth goes
well with matsun, a sour yogurt (15 rubles, 51 cents), and the thin
Armenian lavash bread (5 rubles, 17 cents). The only complaint is
that the meat is a bit tough.
The same can be said for the house specialty, the razdan, a filet of
pork rolled with cheese, red and green peppers, and dill (149 rubles,
$5.13). The meat was overcooked and under-seasoned.
The home-style pork ribs (129 rubles, $4.44) were better. They were
meaty with plenty of fat and not dried out. The vegetable side dish
for 30 rubles ($1.03) however was a disappointing pile of green beans,
cauliflower, and carrots evidently from a bag. The peasant-style
potatoes were markedly better, browned nicely and served with chopped
dill and garlic.
The assorted kebab (110 rubles, $3.79) with lamb and chicken was
served, to our surprise, with a fried egg on top. It was good but
not much different from the ambiguous Russian cutlet found on menus
throughout the city. All entrees are served with pickled cabbage and
enough raw onion to last a few days.
Noyan Tapan’s dining room is small, with just seven tables and a
piano in the corner with a television sitting idly on top. They don’t
have live music but apparently whoever can play the piano is welcome
to. And this would certainly be welcome as Love Radio plays nonstop,
oozing from the speakers mounted on the wall.
The restaurant has been around for eleven years and even on the far
end of Sadovaya, a good half-hour from Nevsky, has kept its doors
open. It’s a friendly spot and if nothing else a good place to drink
some cognac away from all the traffic and noise of the city.
Noyan Tapan (Noah’s Ark), 81 Sadovaya Ulitsa. Cash only, open daily
until 11 p.m. Menu in Russian only. Dinner for two with cognac and
one bottle of wine 1,116 rubles ($38.48).
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress