I had heard a lot about Lavaash by Saby from my son and was craving to go there since some time. Though I have had authentic West Bengali cuisine I did not know about the Armenian influences on the cuisine in certain parts of Bengal especially Asansol, a small coal miners’ town near Kolkata, where the Armenians came some 200 years ago. It is the place where Chef-Owner Sabyasachi Gorai grew up. Lavaash is a slice of his childhood.
Somehow, unlike all other times I did not do any online research about the restaurant. I went there with an open mind last Saturday for a informal dinner with family and friends. I think that worked in my favor. The Mehrauli area is one of my favorites because of its pristine greenery, heritage buildings, monuments and some fine eating joints but Lavaash took me to another world. I was simply awestruck by the sheer beauty of the place.
Located in a heritage building shaded by an ancient Neem tree the place takes your breath away at first glance even at night. Ambavatta 1 also has another restaurant En and the coveted Manish Malhotra Store at ground floor.
Even without tasting the food I made a mental note to come back here during daytime just for the view. Apart from the location the other plus points are ample parking and quiet. Far from the madding crowd one can just sit and relax for hours here. I thought of hundreds of chirping birds and colorful flowers lay asleep as we marveled at the magnificent Qutub Minar from the terrace.
As we took a tour of the place and gorged on the delicious food we were told about the culinary history of the Armenians in Bengal and how Chef Saby thought of preserving the dying legacy of that specific cuisine. Never have I been so impressed by the passion and research done to revive a cuisine and bring it out to those who appreciate good food. A look at the creatively designed menu will tell you how deep the roots go. It is interesting to see how Chef Sabyasachi has pieced together the history of a particular community through their food. A perfect bond of two cuisines so different and yet so similar. It makes you nostalgic about a place never visited.
The decor of Lavaash is subtle and aesthetically very pleasing to the eyes. Eight peacocks intricately laser carved on wood form the name Lavaash. The main doors are painted with pomegranate trees. If you know a little history you’ll know why.
The use of blue and white is perfectly balanced and nothing is jarring to the eyes. One can see the Armenian motifs that adorn the restaurant making it a piece of history. That instantly sets the mood for what is in store. The hand painted glass windows, huge arched windows, the hanging blue metallic partition with peacock carved into it, the Armenian and Iranian tiles on the wall, the rustic mud texture of the walls and the gorgeous floral Kantha work on the upholstery, the hand painted lampshades and the retro music in the background will make you fall in love with the place. The colorful little parrots hanging from the big chandelier in the main dining area and the lovely owls sitting outside the glass windows looking at the balcony dinning space looked so pretty that you have to see them to believe. It is the prettiest restaurant I have visited so far.
Our table was reserved in the picturesque outdoor seating area (the balcony delicately shaded by the Neem tree) where the almost full moon added to the charm of the evening .
I met Megha Kohli, the youngest female head chef in India and the face behind Lavaash. I was told that Megha did a lot of research about the Bengali cuisine and is one of the people behind making Chef Saby’s dream come true.
The young Chef is so full of life and her face lights up the moment you recognize a local ingredient and appreciate its delicate use in the dishes. She explained about the food and its history to us and how local produce that is intrinsic to Bengali cuisine is paired delicately to make the dishes at the restaurant. Incidentally she is the one who designed the menu for Lavaash and put the recipes together. A true labor of love and commitment.
The menu is divided in two parts – authentic Armenian dishes and Bengali dishes with Armenian influence. Each dish is beautifully described.
It was a delight to find the aromatic short grained Gobindobhog rice, kasundi and the fragrant Gondhoraj Lemon as part of the ingredients used. The use of local and indigenous ingredients is the winning point of this place.
We were spoiled for choices but settled for Crisp Lavaash chips with dips, Iranian Lamb Koobideh, melt-in-the-mouth lamb kebabs cooked on charcoal and served on soft traditional lavaash made in the traditional Tonir, and Jewish hot and sour Panir skewer as starters with the excellent pomegranate white Wine Sangria with cherries and green apple, Rum, whiskey, virgin apple mohito, whiskey sour and a few other beverages.
As it was the Holi weekend we got the Thandai Vodka Shots on the house. They were unbeatable.
The dips were out of the world especially the whole white bean humus spiked with garlic and the chili dip. The Armenian mezze Platter with crisp Lavaash chips and four traditional dips was a great start to an unforgettable meal.
The koobideh, unlike the traditional kebabs, were mildly spiced and served with green coriander chutney ( In Armenian cuisine coriander is used rather than mint for chutneys), the indispensable kasundi (Bengali mustard sauce) and a dash of Gondhoraj lemon. The dish was bursting with flavors. The Lavaash bread which is like a roomali roti but definitely better in texture and taste is the oldest bread known to mankind. It is from this the restaurant gets its name.
The Jewish hot and sour panir skewer was a revelation. The tangy tamarind glaze with chili and pomegranate made the soft, char grilled panir a treat. I am not a ‘paneer’ lover but this was something else.
I had the Roast Garlic and Jalapeno Chicken for the first time and found it mouth-watering. Simple and flavorful.
In the mains we ordered Mushroom Manti, an Armenian style ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and served with spiced tomato chutney and Kalinmpong cheese (Indian version of gauda cheese). The chutney was a perfect alternative to the more popular salsa. I loved its texture and taste.
It was so refreshing to see the use of especially crafted earthenware for the dishes. An excellent attempt at traditional, ethnic dining experience. Clay-pot cooking is part of the traditional everyday Bangla and Armenian cooking.
We also ordered Lavaash fish, wrapped and baked in a soft lavaash bread. The betki was melt in the mouth and the flavors reminded me of a typically Bengali household kitchen.
Two portions of Gobindobhog rice with dollops of butter and a slice of Gondhoraj lemons were a treat. It had been ages since I had eaten this aromatic rice cooked to perfection.
Another star of the meal was the fabulous Matnaksh Claypot Bread. Soft and flavorful this was truly addictive. Baked and served hot in a clay pot on dry Sal leaves this Armenian farmer’s leavened bread was sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and chironji (onion seeds). A accompaniment to lap up the awesome gravy of the Spicy Chicken in Georgian walnut sauce. Nothing compares to this freshly baked bread. Nothing at all.
This chicken dish was amazing. The succulent boneless chicken in the nutty tomato gravy tossed with roasted walnuts was something I hadn’t eaten before.
After gorging on this decadent food I eagerly awaited the desserts. My son had raved about their Dark Chocolate and Old Monk Mousse and I was dying to have it. It came in a clay pot and I fell in love with the first bite. It was a match made in heaven. You need to try this to experience the bliss it is.
The Orange pound cake served with palm jaggery syrup and Nolen Gur Ice cream was another dessert I loved. Being a huge fan of palm jaggery this combination was out of the world. The moist, dense cake was so well balanced in sweetness. The tart caramelized orange slice cutting through the nolen gur ice cream made it finger licking good.
We were through with the meal but I was still craving for more. I told Chef Megha that we will be back soon. There was still so much to relish from the exquisitely well executed menu especially the Armenian cheese platter which you won’t get anywhere else. Another positive point about the place is the extensive vegetarian dishes in the menu. I have not seen so much variety elsewhere in Delhi. Sumptuous too.
I loved the warmth with which the staff served us. The service was quick and Chef Megha was the perfect hostess. It was such a joy to be there experiencing a world beyond the mundane.
The experience of eating at Lavaash was a beautiful historical, cultural journey through food. A Brilliant effort in preserving a culinary culture lost in time.
I am already planning my next visit and this time during the day.
When are you heading to Lavaash?
When you are busy licking your fingers you forget about taking photographs and then source them from the Chef and post them with permission. You should also focus on the food and the ambiance. 🙂
This is not a paid review.
Overall rating – 4.5/5
Location – H-5/1, Ambawatta One, Kalkadass Marg,
Mehrauli, New Delhi.