In the eastern Armenian village of Tsaghkunk, an abandoned canteen for Soviet workers is now serving some of Armenia’s most progressive heritage cuisine.
Tsaghkunk Restaurant was once a lunch stop for local growers and cattle farmers. The building sat abandoned for around 40 years, before ex-diplomat and businessman Hrachya Aghajanyan restored it lovingly into a dining room for modern Armenian gastronomy.
Prior to the renovation, a three-month excavation of a shack next to the building revealed more than 300 artifacts dating as far back as the 11th century. Two tonirs—ancient tandoor ovens used for making lavash bread, grilling meats and the like—were among them.
Both tonirs have been preserved under glass, and are available for guests to peek at, but Aghajanyan decided the restaurant should still be focused on traditional fire cooking nonetheless.
Mads Refslund, who co-founded Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that consistently lands at the top of world’s-best list, partially developed Tsaghkunk Restaurant’s menu. It showcases Armenia’s bountiful pantry of diverse, unique, and often unheard-of produce including herbs such as aveluk (a uniquely Armenian type of wild sorrel), plants like wild chamomile and grain staples such as bulgur and lentils with fish sourced from nearby Lake Sevan and meat grilling. Dishes dreamed up with a New Nordic attention to style and sustainability are served in a bright, open space framed by 200-year-old wood beams and high ceilings, as well as stylish contemporary seating and lamps.
Don’t be surprised to meet Aghajanyan here wining and dining out-of-town guests on evenings and weekends. He may travel the world for work, but Aghajanyan grew up visiting his grandparents in Tsaghkunk, a place he will always be deeply connected to.
Know Before You Go
The restaurant is located about an hour’s drive north of the capital Yerevan. A lunch or dinner stop can be combined with a day of lounging on one of Lake Sevan’s beaches or hitting slopes at the Tsaghkadzor Ski Resort.