Wednesday, July 13, 2011

War Stories and Heartburn

Hole in the walls are fun. Specially if there is nowhere to sit and you are forced to eat with your paws. You know how it is. Pretension or comfort isn't part of the script when you chug a cold beer while standing or drop a blob of grease, ketchup, mayo and mustard on the sidewalk a few milliseconds into biting into a bloody burger. Once you are done, drunk and suffering from digestive ailments, you stumble along the road with plenty of new war stories to pass on to the children, a stinging heartburn, and food stains like battle wounds spotting your clothes.

To my surprise, a Friday night a few weeks ago, The Wife, Ph.D., asked me to take her to what is rapidly becoming my favorite Cyprus dive eatery, Avo's Lahmajoun, practically a small counter on Onasagorou Street that sells, in my opinion, the best Armenian lahmajoun and halloumi pies in Nicosia. Yes, there are two or three tables next door for those who want to stuff their faces in situ, but using them would take away from the fun of wrapping your upper and lower incisors around those pies while risking loitering charges from the restaurants nearby. Yes, the service is slow, but only because the pies are made to order and the joint is so damn popular people twirl their thumbs or thumb through their phones for thirty minutes while waiting for their grub. Yes, Avo's team of Armenian Acrobats also make kebab, but who really wants chunks of meat when it can be ground and mixed with tomatoes and spread like lukewarm butter or Nutella or Beluga caviar or Jennifer Connelly on perfectly baked dough? And, yes, it is dirt cheap (€1.30 per largish lahmajoun) to boot.

Armenian pie, Ecuadorian beer belly.
For those of you in the dark, here's the gist of it all. Lahmajoun is a thin, pizza-like dough topped with minced lamb or beef, onions and tomato puree and baked for a few minutes in a brick oven. Once its cooked, you can add chopped parsley and/or hot peppers and squeeze some lemon juice on top. Then, if preferred for the purpose of cleanliness, you can fold it like a poor man's version of a crepe and hope for the best. The dough at Avo's is light and malleable, and it is removed from the fire before it becomes too crunchy. The savory topping is packed with flavor but remains easy to digest. For the sake of this blog, I already envision myself hosting the First Annual Lahmajoun Eating Contest and anointing one of my fancy friends as the Cypriot illiterate beggar version of Takeru Kobayashi, a sensei to all of us who love food but hate putting on the kilos.

Unfortunately, we could not find a bench to call our dining table that night, and The Wife, Ph.D., refused to sit on the dirty sidewalk (my suggestion) like a couple of youthful gypsies out on a second date. Depressed, we headed home and uncorked a bottle of island wine. A week later, though, I was back at Avo's with the boys who couldn't care less where we rested our bums.

Whine On The Rocks Rating: 5 out of 5 Sparkling Spatulas

2010 Hadjiantonas Rose (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) - Beautiful cranberry color. Luscious bouquet reminiscent of candied strawberries and cherries and rose petals. An explosion of candied strawberries and raspberries in the mouth with a tangy, medium-length finish. Off-dry. 88/100.

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