For such an impressive restaurant, in such an impressive location (the outdoor patio opens overlooks People’s Park plaza and sits metres away from an unobstructed view of Shwedagon), The Yangon Restaurant opened surprisingly quietly. Not so much as a whiff of a swanky party invitation or self-congratulatory press release passed by my desk. It’s almost as if they hoped the food might speak for itself.
It absolutely does, of course, but that’s not the only reason I loved this place. On decor alone it trumps anywhere else in the city: A vast, elegant space with crystals dripping from the ceiling and walls festooned with contemporary art, it almost resembles a work of art itself. Yet despite the opulent decor, there is a distinct lack of stuffiness about the experience. They’ve managed to create an inviting, laid-back atmosphere which, after 30 minutes spent punching adjectives into a synonym generator, I’m still not able to properly articulate. Perhaps it’s the live pianist or the general buzz about the place. Or perhaps it’s the service, which is friendly and attentive without being meddlesome. Which is good, because the last thing I want when I’m shelling out 40 bucks on a rack of lamb is to be called “sir” and have someone groping around my lap folding my napkin into the shape of swan.
The modern-European menu is also refreshingly un-complicated. I despair at menus filled with the obscure gibberings of conceited chefs with delusions of Michelin stardom. Here, there is none of that: just a small selection of tempting appetisers and entrees, all with real names. And there are chips. Not deconstructed pommes frites drizzled in edible ink with a whatchamacallit garnish, but actual chips, tossed in truffle and parmesan. Did we need the ketchup? Probably not, but I’m not about to be snobby about it if they’re not.
The dishes themselves are also delightfully un-tampered with – there’s no hocus-pocus or pretentious jazz noodling going on here, just good food, cooked with a bit of love. They did try their luck with an amuse-bouche of smoked duck and diced mango which I’m not sure really accomplished anything, though it was a tasty morsel all the same. My appetiser, a terrine of rabbit with pickled shallots, Nashi pear chutney, lentils and toasted sourdough (K16,000), was faultless – the sweet chutney a perfect complement to the herbal undertones of the rabbit. It’s all the better with a glass of Argentinian Malbec (K9000) from the impressive wine-list.
I was already smitten by the time the entrees arrived, but somehow things managed to get even better. The chermoula spiced lamb-rack with smoked eggplant puree, goats cheese and pomegranate (K42,000)was perfectly executed, the lamb so tender and flavourful that it could only have been the doing of some kind of wizard. The pan roasted duck breast (K28,000), laced with a potent plum jus, was the stuff of dreams: rich, succulent and perilously tasty. And another thing: The portions are so generous it’s almost as if they’ve been created for normal-sized humans. We scraped our plates feeling entirely satisfied. Tip: Don’t make the mistake we did and order a load of sides – as delicious as the spinach thing sounds you won’t be able to eat it. Just get the chips and be done with it.
Suspecting it rather uncouth to order everything on the dessert menu, I chose the apple and pear crumble with raisins and salted caramel ice-cream (K10,000), a delightful iteration of the classic dish which did things to me that – this being a family magazine – I cannot describe in detail, so let’s just say it was delicious and leave it at that.
There’s something special about The Yangon Restaurant. Sure, it’s pricey, but it’s also a definite case of you-get-what-you-pay-for. Besides, after dinner you can step outside into the shadow of Shwedagon and enjoy one of the most remarkable views in the world. And that, as they say, is priceless.