Two Yerevan tips: Lagonid Bistro-Cafe & Sergei Paradjanov Museum

Here are two Yerevan tips. Though both make it into some guidebooks, neither would probably be an obvious choice for a Yerevan sojourn: the Syrian-Armenian Lagonid Bistro-Café and the Sergei Paradjanov Museum.

I never meant to wander into Lagonid Bistro-Café (37 Nalbandyan Poghots), a Syrian-Armenian restaurant in Yerevan. I wanted to eat something distinctly Armenian, or at least something within the ex-Soviet sphere. But the best sounding restaurants along these lines in my rag-tag Lonely Planet to the Caucasus were closed, some apparently for several years, restaurants with enticing names like Color of Pomegranates (Armenian and Georgian cuisine, reportedly) and Bukhara (Uzbek cuisine).

I kept walking in search of a decent lunch, and Lagonid Bistro-Café looked like it might have potential. I ordered labne, hummus, mutabel, and pomegranate juice. The hummus was creamy with lots of olive oil, better than any hummus I’d had since an eye-opening feast at Fakhr El-Din in Amman several years ago. (After Fakhr El-Din I couldn’t eat hummus for months and months. Their version was so far superior to any hummus I’d ever had previously that I wasn’t willing to pollute my palate with bad hummus.) The labne was tart and the mutabel (a puree of roasted eggplant and garlic) was spicy and satisfying. That feast ran me 3300 dram ($8.70), and frankly the only thing on my mind as I walked away was if I should return later that day or the next.

Another Yerevan tip: The Sergei Paradjanov Museum (15-16 Dzoragyugh Poghots). Paradjanov, born to an ethnic Armenian family in Georgia in 1924, was a bad boy of avant-garde cinema at a time when dissident behavior had frightening consequences. Uncomfortable working within the social realist confines of Soviet cinema, Paradjanov was imprisoned several times on various charges, including immorality and bribery. He had many international champions in the arts, and many famous writers and artists campaigned for his release during a long imprisonment in the 1970s. Even when Paradjanov was no longer in prison, Soviet authorities monitored him and limited his ability to work creatively.

The museum presents a psychedelic hodgepodge of Paradjanov’s artistic activities and aesthetic influences. Especially interesting items include the shrine (above) and Paradjanov’s dolls and collages. Photographs, various objects, and the artist’s collages, some very intricate, cover the walls. Paradjanov developed the collage form while he was imprisoned.

Admission to the museum is 700 drams ($1.85).

Be sure to check out other Far Europe and Beyond series installments.