A city of tropical trees and beautiful lakes, pavement tea-shops and magnificent heritage buildings, Yangon has an intriguing mix of Burmese culture and multinational communities. Yangon is the modern name for Rangoon and this vibrant and fast-changing metropolis is where Myanmar’s past and future collide. My hand-picked top restaurants in Myanmar are only one example of this fusion.
Fusion of east and west
Yangon has a rich cultural history drawing on Burmese, British, Chinese and Indian influence. It’s legacy as the former capital of Burma is an extensive collection of British colonial period architecture (the highest number of such buildings in south-east Asia), much of which has faded to a romantic dilapidation of peeling pastel colours draped with creeping vines. Some have been restored to their former glory, like the famous Strand Hotel Yangon on the riverfront.
This city has long been the heart of the country. Alaungapaya, the founder of the last line of Burmese kings, made it his capital in 1753 and so it remained until 2005 when the Myanmar capital was moved to the purpose-built city of Napyidaw. Yangon remains the country’s largest city and commercial hub.
The city is also renowned for its many parks and lakes, which teamed with a relatively low-rise skyline earned it the nickname ‘Garden City of the East’. Yangon is an amazing city undergoing exciting change and has a burgeoning food scene.
I had so many great eating experiences I had to share my top 10 restaurants in Yangon.
The best restaurants in Yangon
Only a few years ago you wouldn’t have found any ethnic restaurants in Yangon but now you can try a broad range of Myanmar food from around this diverse country.
I have included everything from the most glamorous places to eat Burmese cuisine in Yangon, to delicious budget-friendly options, and an insider tip. There are trendy places to ‘be seen’ and restaurants in Yangon where people watching is the order of the day.
I quickly went from being completely ignorant about Myanmar food to realising that eating here is one of the many reasons to love Myanmar!
Anya Ahta serves Anya style food from the central part of Myanmar and is located on the first floor of an un-renovated colonial building on 37th Street with high ceilings and impressive art works on the walls. The owners of this Yangon restaurant (a lovely chap called Aung Soe Min) have really got it right in that it is the type of place that both locals and visitors enjoy.
I found the Anya food really different from anything else I had tasted in the country. Pricing is modest and I loved the hot and sour mango salad with pungent fried ngapi and the savoury poun-ay-gyi. Another tasty side dish (we ordered lots of these) was the maize and lady fingers. Vegetarians might like to try the dandelion curry!
The Shan Kitchen (Nawaday St, Dagon) offers so many delicious dishes that I was glad to be eating there as part of a large group so I could try lots of things! This is an unassuming little restaurant with very reasonable prices that is deservedly popular with locals and expats alike. Food from Shan state features exotic salads, curries, noodles and stirfries and it’s amazing. I ate here twice while visiting Yangon.
The Rangoon Tea House
Another beautifully renovated colonial building is home to the Rangoon Tea House (77-79 Pansodan St, Kyauktada Township) that offers exquisite Burmese food. You can try delicious mohinga (traditional fish broth with noodles), samosas, rakhine curry, and pork bao. None of which are exactly like the street food equivalents but if you’re not brave enough to eat on the street this is the perfect solution in lively atmosphere with good service. Try something from the extensive Burmese tea menu – there are different combinations of boiled tea with condensed milk and everyone has a favourite preference.
The House of Memories
The House of Memories is a restaurant and museum in an old villa in Yangon. During World War II it was the headquarters of the Burma Independence Army and an upstairs office was used by Bogyoke (General) Aung San, the hero of Burma’s fight for independence.
You don’t always want to be eating local food if you’re in a city for more than a few days and sometimes you crave something really healthy. Introducing Nourish, a fresh, vegan cafe with a faultless menu for breakfasts, lunches and snacks. I loved the creamy coconut oatmeal layered with grape-soaked chia seeds, grated apple and topped with pumpkin seeds, gogi berries and cinnamon.
Nourish is attached to the Yangon Yoga House, (36/38A Alan Pya Pagoda Road, Yankin Township) the city’s first completely English-speaking yoga studio so there’s an opportunity to keep your practice up while travelling.
The Press Office coffee bar
This is a great option when you just need a proper coffee and cake fix. The Press Office is a tiny cafe in Dagon Township with excellent coffee and the type of cakes and pastries you’re unlikely to find elsewhere in Yangon. Wandering Kiwi Jr recommends the banana bread.
This is the latest addition to Yangon’s rooftop bars. In fact I could have been forgiven for thinking I had been transported to New York City if it wasn’t for the golden glow of the Schwedagon Pagoda over my companion’s shoulder. The Penthouse offers excellent cocktails and high-quality western food from oysters to burgers that comes at a western price. If you want to dress up with expats and enjoy the deliciously balmy tropical evening with a touch of glamour, check out the Penthouse.
If you have one fancy meal out while in Yangon let it be at L’Opera, which is in the most gorgeous colonial mansion set on the banks of Inya Lake. It is worth it for the impossibly romantic setting alone but the authentic Italian food is also a treat for the tastebuds.
Shan Yoe Yar
Shan Yoe Yar (169 Wardan St, Lanmadaw Township) is an upmarket restaurant in one of the few remaining teak mansions in the downtown area of Yangon (most of these have been demolished for apartments over the past couple of decades). It offers a delicious range of Burmese food.
Another impossibly elegant lakeside restaurant where lunch on the terrace the elegant dining room, or dinner in the bistro comes perfectly prepared. The service is of course impeccable. Le Planteur ( 80 University Avenue, Bahan Township) was established by Swiss expat Boris Granges, who used to chef at L’Opera but renovated this colonial mansion and opened in 1998.
This is my only tip for Yangon nightlife that doesn’t involve food. It’s a rooftop bar that is neither swanky nor expensive. It’s on top of an ordinary hotel (just go up in the lift of the Alfa Hotel at 41 Nawaday St, Dagon Township) and features a few tables and a guy sitting behind a line of top shelf bottles. But the views of the Yangon skyline with its golden pagodas are excellent, the vibe is casual, and the prices are more budget-travel-friendly.
Enjoy your time in Myanmar!
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you got any recommendations for restaurants in Yangon?
We stayed at the Sunny Holiday Hotel Yangon, a spotlessly-clean budget-friendly hotel in Yangon near the abovementioned Shan Kitchen.