ain't Paris, but it's Buddha Bar, a la Yerevan.
Near a dormitory where Indian students studying
medicine in Yerevan frequently pass the night
with their own music, the more contemporary noise
of imported exotic ambiance invites attention
inside the Buddha Bar Lounge.
Under dragon-like letters announcing the new
bar's presence, stairs leading to the basement
bar take a visitor into a bit of European pop
culture transported to Yerevan.
Different for Armenia, yes, but don't be fooled
into thinking this Buddha Bar is a replica of
it's famous namesake in Paris. Familiar to ambient
pop music fans for its "Buddha Bar"
series of cds, the Paris lounge sparked a genre
of style and sound.
This is Buddha Bar ala Yerevan. Still, it is
a departure from the common fare.
A green soft carpet is slouched in contrast with
the shady crimson walls on which there are 15
or so Indonesian paintings. The dark air is tinged
with the fragrance of Indian incense. A seated
Buddha statue positioned at the end of the room
keeps a lid on things and the Buddha-Bar music
makes visitors feel like stepping into another
Soft long chairs placed around the tables like
a lounge invite relaxation and except for a large
TV screen near the statue this could be a meditation
inside for ambient tunes and the aroma of
In a previous life this Buddha Bar on Mashtots
Avenue was a billiard room. On April 7 it was
reincarnated by owner Vahagn Ohanyan into the
bar. There is also a restaurant which serves Oriental
dishes, some Armenian standards and cheeseburgers
and pasta. Eventually the menu will lean toward
Chinese and Indian-inspired cuisine.
Ohanyan is just 22 and still a student of economics.
A visit to the Paris original inspired him to
bring the mood of Buddha to Yerevan. His partner
Vrouire Khlghatyan joined efforts and Buddha Bar
Lounge was born.
"For many in Armenia, the word bar is just
another place to eat, drink and socialize, but
what I'm trying to show is that Buddha Bar is
not only an eating place. It is a special relaxing
atmosphere that the ambience and the music make
it perfect," says Ohanyan.
He brought more than 30 Buddha Bar CDs from France
and is planning to hire a DJ who would liven up
the special Buddha Bar parties intended for once
Opening in spring, when café season is
in bloom was not the best timing Ohanyan says.
But he hopes by the time cold days come again
he'll have Buddha Bar Lounge just the way he wants
Visitors at Buddha Bar are already constant clients,
even though many first visitors hesitate to stay.
"Some people enter the place but refuse
to stay after they find out that we don't have
booths," Ohanyan says, referring to the popular
style of many Armenian bars.
Until other Armenians get used to open-spaced
restaurants, the Buddha Bar offers some privacy
anyway, with transparent curtains between the
tables and dim lighting.
Barman Vahram Yeznikyan has concocted a special
drink to match the Buddha mood. "Buddha"
tea, he reveals, is a mix of three teas, honey,
ice cream and whipped cream served with a separate
glass of ice.
There is also a special cocktail blended from
whisky, rum, vodka, cream and coconut flakes -
intended, perhaps, to make a customer smile like
Buddha, whether in Paris or on Mashtots Avenue.