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Restaurateur promises traditional Armenian cuisine

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By The Staff

Paul Sim believes in the food he serves.

“Every single dish on this menu — it’s not a lot — but every single dish is the most traditional, the most representing,” Sim says. “The most flavorful, colorful parts of Armenian cuisine are ee on that menu.”

The Armenian Grill, Sim’s month-old restaurant in South Jeffco, offers more than a compilation of what he considers the finest traditional dishes from his home country. It is also an introduction to Armenian culture.

“This is actually food the way it was prepared generations and generations ago,” Sim says, adding that his aunt guides food preparation in the kitchen to ensure authenticity.

“This restaurant was mostly — mostly — to get this food out,” Sim said. “This is what I wanted to do.”

To begin to understand Armenian cuisine, one must look first to the country’s geography.

Situated near Turkey and Georgia in southeast Europe, the Republic of Armenia is a landlocked country that gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Armenia’s culture isn’t studied in great depth in America, lost somewhere between European and Asian studies.

The flavors are unique. Some elements of a meal are similar to what’s found in nearby regions. The Armenian Grill features borscht, a vegetable soup found in eastern European countries. It also has dolmas — stuffed grape leaves like those served in Greece and in some other Middle Eastern countries.

The food served at the Armenian Grill stands on its own, however, as Sim takes pride in what makes it unique.

“This is the first, the only, Armenian cuisine in the entire state of Colorado,” Sim said. “How’s that for a statement?”

The main dishes consist of grilled meats, bought fresh and seasoned for 48 hours prior to being served. The result is a balanced flavor of spices and meat best tasted hot off the grill.

The restaurant, at 7806 W. Jewell Ave., offers lunch patrons entrees for $9.99 each. Two options allow diners to order a soft drink and either a bowl of soup and an appetizer or an entre and fresh salad.

The ajapsandal soup is made with roasted vegetables, potatoes and beef. Similar to a stew, it is slow cooked, allowing the ingredients to dissolve and blend with the spices.

Among the appetizers is the hinkali, or Armenian ravioli. Within the pasta exterior is shredded meat and a complex taste that goes well with Armenian Kilikia beer.

“We call it a traditional Armenian beer snack,” Sim said of the hinkali.

For a main course, the grilled beef might be one of the most pleasant surprises. Not as simple as the name on the menu suggests, the beef is tender, flavorful and hard to resist.

Accompanied by a salad, the grilled beef makes for a hearty lunch.

“The salad was good, different,” said Duane Vandeventer, who was eating at the Armenian Grill for the first time. “It was a lot more food than I thought.”

Each entre is accompanied by one of several side dishes, ranging from “homemade potatoes” to bulgur, a wheat dish served with or without sauted onions.

The homemade potatoes are not what most would expect. While it may sound like French fries, hash browns or home-fried potatoes, this side is somehow lighter. Prepared in a light mixture of oil and seasoning, the potatoes have a delicate crunch and hard-to-resist flavor.

A homemade sauerkraut accompanies the entrees as well.

“It’s a bit different,” said Samantha Sim, Paul’s wife. “We don’t put in too much vinegar.”

Paul Sim boasts that everything on the menu is the way grandma cooked it, and that all the food is extremely fresh.

“I don’t use any suppliers because we don’t buy bulk,” he said. “I do shopping every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to keep everything fresh on the menu.”

Contact Matt Gunn at matt@evergreenco.com.