As a self-described Westerner who has lived in Yangon on and off, I’ve put together a list of 10 of my favorite restaurants in Yangon. There are fifteen more on the author’s website, which you can find in addition to the ten we selected.
The Shwe Sa Bwe
Beautifully decorated with Myanmar art and splashes of Art Deco color, this is one of Yangon’s finest dining establishments. Hidden just north of Inya Lake, a non-profit culinary boarding school for aspiring chefs and waiters serves up a sophisticated fare in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It’s impossible to pick a favorite dish because the menu changes so frequently, but the food is consistently excellent and inventive. The quality of the food varies from the beginning of the semester to the end because the chefs are inexperienced. Even if they try too hard, they still find joy in the journey of learning. In the dry season, the backyard garden makes for a particularly lovely setting for a cocktail party. Even though Shwe Sa Bwe is more expensive, it is well worth a trip.
Inya Lake, north of 20 Malikha St. (Mayangone)
The Sofaer and Co.
It’s hard to find another company like Sofaer and Co. From the very beginning, the dishes are inventive and prepared skillfully. It’s a pleasure to savor each mouthful. The last time I went (which is at least a half-dozen times), I had the Vietnamese bun and a friend had laksa, but neither were what they claimed to be but rather wonderfully flavorful interpretations of classic dishes. I highly recommend this restaurant. It’s impossible to talk about the food without mentioning the creative and well-executed cocktails that accompany it. The setting is historically significant, having been constructed in 1906 by Iraqi-Jewish entrepreneur Isaac Sofaer and renovated to preserve its history. This adds a certain “je ne sais quoi” to the meal. Is there anything that could be done to improve the ambiance? When the food is this good and interesting, it’s difficult to focus on anything else…
You’ll find us just south of Merchant Street on Pansodan (Downtown)
The Shan Yoe Yar
Shan Yoe Yar is likely to be one of the most enjoyable dining experiences you’ll have in Yangon. Shan noodles aren’t what you’d expect at this restaurant. There are so many delicious Shan specialties, from pounded vegetables to sour soup to tamarind fried fish, that you’ll want to stay for hours just to try them all. The food is also consistent and precise, especially at their stunning Wa Dan Street location. Second-floor charm is especially apparent. It’s a must-see.
Wa Dan St., between Bo Gyoke Rd. (Ahlone) and Sule Square, is the location (Downtown)
The Burma Bistro
Burma Bistro, located in a beautifully restored colonial-era building on Merchant Road, reinvents Burmese cuisine with a fresh perspective. However, the presentation takes precedence over the taste of the food. The rice in bamboo and Vietnamese rolls are among the most photogenic. It’s a work of art. An award should be given to the person who completed the renovation. There are two floors and a balcony that looks out over the bustling market below. The Burmese cuisine may be more authentic elsewhere, but sometimes the atmosphere is enough to entice you to dine out…
Between 29th St. and Shwe Bon Thar Rd., on Merchant Rd (Downtown)
The Hong Bao Dim Sum
Do you consider yourself an expert on Chinese cuisine? Try Hong Bao Dim Sum first. This restaurant reinvents traditional Chinese dishes like xiaolongbao and shrimp in rice rolls by fusing flavors and textures in new and exciting ways. Each piece is meticulously prepared. The presentation is flawless, and each bite is flawless as well. In what used to be the Water Library, this Hong Bao (one of many) can be found in Dagon’s Myanmar heritage residence, which is said to be haunted by friendly ghosts. It’s a relaxing atmosphere thanks to the white walls, wood carvings, and plenty of natural light. But don’t forget to eat.
On the corner of Ma Naw Hari St and Pyay Rd (Dagon)
The Cellar Door Wine Bistro
I’m not usually a fan of mall restaurants, but the Cellar Door Wine Bistro stands out as one of the best in Yangon thanks to its meticulous attention to detail and high level of quality. The tiny Cellar Door, perched high above Pyay Road in an open-air shopping mall, serves up high-end Western cuisine and an impressive wine list. This is what you’d get in Lausanne, complete with raclette and charcuterie boards. Perfectly prepared seafood and meat dishes. Sauces prepared by the chef are enriched with a generous amount of butter. Western cuisine makes good use of fresh, local ingredients. Despite its remote location, the atmosphere is surprisingly welcoming. There are large windows with views of the greenery and music that is just right for a pleasant surprise even if it is a bit far from the city center.
The Marketplace is located on the first floor at 69 Pyay Rd (Hlaing)
The Alex’s Gastro Bar
At Alex’s Gastro Bar, guests can enjoy upscale Western and Asian cuisine in a posh setting that’s equal parts refined and opulent. The staff is exceptional, and the setting is warm and inviting. The cuisine is what makes this restaurant so highly regarded. The flavor and presentation at Alex’s are out of this world. Pork chops with tom yum paste and caramelized pumpkin soup are just a few of the restaurant’s standout dishes. The desserts, too, are excellent. Alex’s is seldom full, giving it a Naypyitaw vibe. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic find.
The Loft Hotel is located on Yaw Min Gyi St. (Yaw Min Gyi)
The most authentic German restaurant in Southeast Asia can be found on the ground floor of a Sanchaung skyscraper. There it is, serving up some of the best schnitzel, pork knuckle, kasespatzle, and even kaiserschmarrn you’ve ever tasted. Baskets of fresh-baked pieces of bread with flavored butter add an extra layer of flavor. In fairness, the German pop music is a little cheesy (“Du bist meine Lebensliebe”) and the chairs are a little uncomfortable. You might think so, but you’re downing a liter of imported German beer and the service is so attentive. As you’d expect from a German restaurant, the food was excellent and consistent.
At 84 Pan Hlaing St., just off Baho Rd., you’ll find us (Sanchaung)
The 800 Bowls
On this list, this is the most affordable option. Locals swear by the freshness of the Chinese noodle and dumpling offerings. It’s easy to tell the difference in flavor. You’re in for a real treat if you ignore the simple but clean setting. The noodle, pork, and dumpling soup would be my preference over the bao.
Location: Maha Bandula Rd., between 47th and 48th Streets in Manhattan (Downtown)
The AJ’s Bar and Grill
The burgers are the only reason to go to this dingy second-floor restaurant in the heart of downtown. That AJ’s is ranked so highly on this list even though the restaurant itself is dingy is a sign of how good the hamburgers are at this establishment. Poured onto your plate from a hot skillet, this dish is bursting with flavor and oozing with cheese. It’s up there with the best of them. What a surprise!
The address is 132 Anawrahta Rd., between 48th St. and Bo Myat Htun St. in Yangon (Downtown)