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dailystar: Opening of traditional Armenian restaurant realizes childhood dream

Ara Alain Arzoumanian

Special to The Daily Star

Childhood dreams are seldom realized and most of them are placed on hold or lost forever in the growing tedium of everyday worries and concerns. But Aline Kamakian and Serge Maacaron have materialized their childhood dream by establishing a traditional Armenian restaurant. The restaurant carries the name “Mayrig,” which is a nickname for mother.

When we were kids, our guests couldn’t have enough of our traditional Armenian dinners at home, said Kamakian and Maacaron, who are cousins and partners in the restaurant. “Since then, there was no doubt in our minds that our grandmother’s traditional recipes would be a huge success.”

According to Kamakian and Maacaron, the whole project unfolded as if by magic. After serious discussions on a Sunday in March of this year, they contacted a realtor on Tuesday, and signed a lease on Friday. Mayrig, which occupies the former location of La Grappa in Gemaizeh, opened for business at the end of June 2003.

“I grew up in Gemaizeh and the area has still retained its authenticity,” said Maacaron. “Anyway, I fell in love with the place and decided that if the restaurant didn’t work out I would make my home here.” The 150 square-meter ground floor is decorated with bronze, wood, kilims and Armenian artifacts, mostly old family relics, which give the place a cultural and homey feeling. The whole design, which was planned by Maacaron’s sister Sandra ­ an architecture student at Academie Libanaise des Beaux Arts ­ has a rather Ottoman feel.

The restaurant has its own parking space and a 30 square-meter open terrace that has been roofed for all year round use.

The constant presence of both managing partners guarantees that everything runs smoothly.

Clients get the feeling that they are eating at a friend’s place rather than a restaurant.

“Our concept is that of a pure and authentic Armenian cuisine, which for the time being cannot be found at any other restaurant,” said Kamakian. Our carefully elaborated menu of western Armenian delicacies has people coming to eat here from all parts of the country.” Kamakian, who has declined offers of partnership in other restaurant ventures in the past said that she felt that a passive role wasn’t for her.

“We get along beautifully and have a great working relationship,” said Maacaron. “The only time Aline gets on my nerves is when she calls me early in the morning to go over the day’s affairs,” he added jokingly.

For all those unfamiliar with the Armenian cuisine, Maacaron is more than ready to dish out the Armenian experience, but don’t forget to reserve as the place is packed most nights. Kamakian and Maacaron are currently considering opening a second branch.

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