By Artsvi Bakhchinyan
Special to Mirror-Spectator
HARBIN, China — The Armenian community in Harbin was the biggest among the Armenian communities in China in the first half of the 20th century. They have their church and school, various organizations, leading active community life. The Armenians began to leave Harbin in the mid-1940s after the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China, and soon the community ceased to exist.
Nowadays there are no traces in China of a prominent one-time Armenian presence. The only exception is Tatos Restaurant (in English – Tadao Si Western Restaurant), the very first Caucasian restaurant in China.
This restaurant is located in the basement at 127 Central Avenue (or Zhongyand Dajie). It was founded in 1901, by an Armenian migrant Tatos (also known as Tadevos, Tevatros) Grigorievich Ter Hakobyan (Terakopov), originally from Georgia. The establishment quickly gained immense popularity among the local public. For many decades this restaurant was suggesting Armenian, Caucasian, and European dishes, mostly unknown to the local population. The Armenian cuisine has become the hallmark of this institution, but now it is considered as a Russian, rather, pseudo-Russian restaurant, as it serves also general European dishes. Even then, Harbin was a multinational city, the most cosmopolite city of Far East, where lots of immigrants from Russia were called Russians. It is the Russian spirit that has been preserved in Tatos to our time.
Among the regulars of the restaurant was the cream of Harbin society — foreign diplomats, representatives of artistic circles, prominent public figures, etc. While in Harbin, the famous Russian singer Feodor Chaliapin used to dine in this restaurant.