Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - At an Armenian kebab house, taking part in the family feast



At an Armenian kebab house, taking part in the family feast

Ara (left) and Gevorg Babayan.
Ara (left) and Gevorg Babayan. Athena Zelandonii

At an Armenian kebab house, taking part in the family feast

Last week, the unmistakable aroma of grilled meat wafted down Tuol Tompoung’s Street 450. It wasn’t coming from a street vendor, but Cambodia’s first Armenian-style barbecue, Arkun.

The restaurant, which is set to open next week, is a joint project between Gevorg Babayan and his uncle Ara. They are hoping that their hearty kebabs draw a crowd larger than those simply longing for a taste of home; the nephew jokes that the pair likely makes up half of the Armenian population in Phnom Penh.

Feasting is central to Armenian culture, Gevorg says. Any chance for a good meal and a couple of drinks is taken, and mastering the perfect barbecue goes hand-in-hand with male pride. “If you had barbecue every day in Armenia, you would be a king,” he says.

Setting up the restaurant was easy enough. The open-pit grill sits outside on the street. The interior is sparse: a simple, Khmer-style shophouse with neatly arranged wooden tables and photographs of the Babayan’s homeland on the wall.

Arkun’s specialty beef kebab, with lavash flatbread.
Arkun’s specialty beef kebab, with lavash flatbread. Athena Zelandonii

The modest Ara tends to the grill with a smile, throwing out the occasional sly joke. But his nephew boasts of his credentials: “One day, a group of friends gathered to cook a barbecue and he became the champion,” Gevorg recounts.

Ara served up a hearty meal with a home-cooked feel. Post Weekend sampled the beef kebab, which Gevorg is quick to differentiate from its Turkish doner counterpart. The ground beef is mixed with onions and herbs, briefly fried to maintain the shape, frozen and then wrapped on a skewer and cooked over the open fire. The kebabs are also available with pork or chicken.

At Arkun, the hearty portions are just $5, so it’s easy to imagine those in Phnom Penh eating like a king on the regular. Gevorg says they’ve been lucky to find suppliers to provide meat – including Australian beef – that is up to Armenian standards. (“Well, almost,” he adds with a laugh.) He also boasts of the Armenian-style flatbread (lavash) that they’ve developed in house.

And vegetarians need not shy away from the meat-centric surrounds. Ara serves a nice, smoky plate of roasted aubergine, peppers and tomato or a summer salad, though he might try to convince customers that “just a little bit of meat” won’t hurt anyone.

Arkun is located at #53 Street 450. It will be open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 11pm, from October 25.

MOST VIEWED

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration