AJ’s Armenian at the corner of Maroa and Shaw, has been recommended to me by several people. When I covered Diana’s, Manchester Steak House, and House of Kebab, a couple months ago, I was scolded by one of my oldest friends that I was “making a mistake” for passing over AJ’s on my first round of reviews. Even one of my non-Armenian cousins reminded me I should eat here. Well, I’ve corrected my mistake.
I sat for lunch with another friend of mine on a foggy day in the Valley for a warm cabbage soup and an entrée of lamb riblets with bulgar pilaf. Let’s start with the soup. It reminded me of Russia. I had borscht almost every day I was in Russia. Good filler, healthy, warming to the body and usually flavorful. AJ’s Armenian version was nothing more or less than any borscht should be, homemade and soothing.
On to the main course of lamb and pilaf. Nice grill job on the lamb. Good flavor, well seasoned and tender. The raw onions, when put on top of the hot lamb, leach out onion flavor into the meat. If you’re meeting clients at 2pm, I’d push the raw onions aside. The bulgar was as it should be, buttery and well seasoned with salt. It may be a toss-up between Manchester Steak House and AJ’s as to who puts more butter in their pilaf. The vegetables, mushrooms and peppers, were uncooked, sort of a side salad with no dressing or marinade. There were some squash as well, but they weren't really cooked either, more like they were simply heated in the pan and served with the rest of the vegetables.
This is home-styled Armenian food, like you’d expect at a good friend’s house or if I were Armenian, my aunt’s house. Nothing fancy, but well thought out, treated with care and well executed. It’s worth noting, that AJ’s has a daily special, usually a classic Armenian dish that’s served at lunch and dinner.