Over the years, we have seen a steady immigration of Armenians from their communities in Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Greece, and Armenia. Many have settled in the United States and Los Angeles is home to the largest Armenian diaspora who have contributed multiple cultural layers to the concept of Armenian food. It is evident that original Armenian food differs from that which is consumed in Los Angeles.
[caption id="attachment_1846" align="aligncenter" width="546"] 'Angelenos' food vs authentic Armenian food[/caption]
Los Angeles locals enjoy their Armenian food, although the true origin of the dishes is often questioned within Armenian communities. After visiting several Armenian eateries in Los Angeles, and interviewing Armenian food connoisseurs and Armenian mothers and grandmothers who really know their stuff, a multiple-choice survey was drawn up which received over 100 responses at laweekly.com.
So what can we say about the Armenian dishes served in restaurants in Los Angeles? It seems that the 'Angeleno' version of Armenian food is not always authentic, but pretty good! Most of the dishes have ingredients which have been part of Armenian cultural cuisine since the time of their ancestors. But Armenian food has been intertwined with flavors from other cultures, such as Turkish, Greek, Arabic and Persian, which has made the food slightly different nowadays. For instance, what one Armenian considers being authentic Armenian food may differ slightly from that of another Armenian. Some even question the difference between Turkish and Armenian coffee at times.
[caption id="attachment_1849" align="alignleft" width="300"] Mantee Café stood out as being one of the more preferred Armenian restaurants[/caption]
We had diverse responses to our surveys, with some mentioning only a few restaurants which stood out, including Mantee Café and Sevan Garden. Sevan Garden was noted as having the best Adana kebab and bulgur in comparison to any other Armenian restaurant.
There were several comments on how difficult it was to find "true" Armenian food as most restaurants offer Persian/Armenian or Greek/Armenian fusions. Fusions such as these are an interesting twist to the usual recipes but are not for everyone. The author of "Simply Armenia," Barbara Ghazarian, does not consider there to be many authentic Armenian meals being served today, and noted only bulgur, quince, and bastegh, as being dishes which stood out for her.
In general, it seems that although our Armenian food does contain at least some of the elements of our authentic cultural cuisine, not everyone agrees. Some Armenian-Americans say that there are several Armenian spots which just don't serve a great falafel when you need one, and don't have many vegetarian options on their menus. It was also mentioned, in response to the survey, that Armenian food needs a makeover, we need to bring back the classic dishes to Los Angeles.