What is Dolmama
Dolmama was established in 1998. Starting it was simple but there were many problems to resolve, not the least of them was creation of a menu that would be interesting, tasty, good looking and typical Armenian, to be exact - Eastern Armenian. Most of the world familiar with Armenian food has had contacts with western Armenians (territory of Ottoman Empire) who where dispersed all over the world at the beginning of the last century after the tragic events of the Armenian Genocide. Armenia has very rich culinary culture, with many influences of nations surrounding it. In its turn, Armenian culinary has had a great impact on the culinary culture of the neighboring countries. Yogurt is a good example of this. . First time I heard about yogurt in the US, when Colombo yogurt was advertised on the radio in the early 70s. On the other hand, Eastern Armenian cuisine that developed on the current mountainous territory of the Republic of Armenia has overseen many hardships. Being part of the Soviet Union was not the least of them. Now, how boring can that be?
The task of Dolmama was to rejuvenate and give color to the menu and taste of that cuisine. It was hard and very easy at the same time. Since the local organic product to work with is very tasty and the Soviet Armenian cuisine had short history, it was easy to revitalize Armenian indigenous cuisine and be creative about it. In 1998 there were hard times in Armenia. It had just gotten itself out of the war and was in a grip of economic depression. So, it was a problem to physically open a restaurant. There were no chairs and no tables. To be creative we went around villages collecting “lavash” tables (Lavash is a paper thin bread. Its dough is rolled on such tables and the sheets are baked in ground pits called “tonir”). We restored the tables for our restaurant and we found an iron worker to make chairs by our design. A lot has changed since then but we still have some of those tables and chairs in our restaurant.
Creating our menu
Dolma, is the main meal of our menu and the name of the restaurant comes from it. Dolma is ground meat, beef, lamb or whatever you like, mixed with rice and herbs of your choice and wrapped in grape leaves. You may cook it in vegetable oil or butter, serve it cold or hot. We have done some changes in the way it is prepared. We replaced the ground meat with a slice of sirloin and made it tangier by adding rosemary and chili. Is it Armenian? I say, Yes, but then, who cares?
Khashlama, another favorite meal among Armenians, verbally meaning stewed meat. It is meat cooked in water. In “Dolmama” we replaced water with concoction of sweet, vermouthy wine and cream fresh. We made it more spicy and voilà, it is a lamb stewed in Dolmama style. Forgive me for brief description of the way we cook these dishes but it’s better to taste it once then to read about it many times.
Sweet food given to us by an old recipe of Easter Pilaff includes rice with sweet raisins, dried fruit and nuts. The recipe prompted us that we could mix fresh peaches with green beans or make Khorovats (BBQ) with mulberry sauce. Making our menu has turned into a creative process. First it was going on in my head then the ideas were carried out through trials until achieving the goal.