If there’s one problem with Indian restaurant The Marina, it’s surely that it’s an Indian restaurant called The Marina. Admittedly there are worse names for an Indian place (I once got taken on a date to The Swastika) but still, in a game of Guess the Menu, you’re not going to be winning any prizes.
Fortunately, a fishy name is where The Marina’s problems end. Indeed, I’m astounded that a place which got its name so wrong can get everything else so completely right. On décor alone it’s light-years ahead of its competition; The sleek, contemporary dining room is blissfully free of the ghastly satin tablecloths and tired clichés of most Indian restaurants. And whadd’ya know? It turns out a neon Ganesh staring over you while you eat your korma doesn’t make it taste more Indian after all.
And then there’s the food. Again, The Marina sets itself apart from your average curry house with a sophisticated menu of imaginative, authentic dishes. If there’s a restaurant serving better Indian food than this in Yangon I certainly haven’t eaten in it. Choosing from the mouthwatering list of curries is nigh on impossible – you will almost certainly end up ordering far too many, but more is more is my mantra. There’s also a Pan Asian menu with everything from tom yum soup to dim sum, which seemed a bit superfluous. Ever dubious of menus that try to be too many things at once, I decided to stick with the curries.
Holy cow the curries. The creamy Kabuli Ghost (10,000), tender pieces of mutton in a yogurt and cashew sauce, was jaw-droppingly fabulous; subtly accented with aniseed it was quite unlike any curry I’ve eaten before. The Jhinga Curry (K13,000) – fat, juicy prawns in a coconut curry tempered with mustard seeds – was also excellent, easy on the cream and assured in its flavour. We probably should have stopped there but in the name of research we curried on, devouring a Lahori Chicken (K8750), a fiercely spiced kadhai-style dish with a zing of clove and cumin. Whatever you so, don’t miss the Dal Maharaja (K5000) – whole black lentils in a smoky, earthy gravy – which is rich, buttery and comfortingly devourable.
Incidentally we also enjoyed part of another, mistakenly served, mutton dish, which was just as fiery and delectable, though it was promptly whisked away as soon as they realised the error. Service overall was a bit scatty, though as usual the staff were warm and friendly, and since they’ve only just opened I’m inclined to forgive a bit of funny business.
Of course, when I said The Marina only had one problem, it was with the assumption that you weren’t one of those lunatics who order dessert at an Indian restaurant. If you are one of those people, you only have yourself to blame when you’re subjected to the “chocolate brownie” (K4500), which is not a brownie at all but rather a gargantuan slab of cheap chocolate sponge cake disguised under sickly sweet icing. I mean, there’s dessert, and then there’s diabetes. Probably best to stick with a masala chai.
With its refreshingly unfamiliar menu and richly spiced dishes here’s no doubt that The Marina has raised the bar when it comes to Indian cuisine in Yangon. The bright, contemporary restaurant makes for a delightful dining experience, and although they’ve only been open only a few weeks, there’s already a steady stream of customers making for a convivial atmosphere. I’ll definately be going back as often as my waistline allows. After all, when the worst thing about a restaurant is its name, you know you’re on to a good thing.