Mayrig means “little mother” in Armenian. It is also the name of a fabulous restaurant in the neighborhood of Gemmayze in Beirut. Tucked away on Pasteur Street, inside a small courtyard, the authentic Armenian restaurant is housed in a magnificent old house, with stained-glass windows and painted concrete floor tiles and cut stone walls. This is where we experienced some of the most delicious Armenian cuisine… I had to order the manti, a sort of tiny meat dumpling, served with a tomato sauce and yoghurt; I had to sample the meatballs with wild cherry sauce. Or the kebabs with eggplants. Or the kibbe made with rice and stuffed with meat and pine nuts. We were also served a sample of Armenian salads, such as a lentil salad, a burghul salad, an olive salad and finally an eggplant sald. All scrumptious and with a subtle use of spices such as pomegranate and others we could not quite identify. Dessert time came and we could only sample the delicious stuffed apricots with ashta (clotted cream), knowing that we would be back for more soon.
I was amazed that my friend Hoda, a Beiruti since birth, had never experienced Armenian cuisine beyond sujuk (a sausage) and basterma. We have had a sizable Armenian community in Lebanon since the 1900′s, after a large portion of Armenians fled massacres and persecution. Very industrious and well-educated, they are now an intricate part of Lebanese society. The Armenians are politically active and have preserved their culture, language and traditions. My aunt and cousin visited Armenia recently and came back enthralled with the beauty of the land, the ancient culture and artifacts, the excellence of the food (meat there is hormone-free as cattle are raised in pastures).
I strongly recommend this restaurant. Mayrig is located on Pasteur Street in Gemmayzeh. It can be reached at (01) 572121.