We traveled to Bagan by air from Yangon and during our stay there, we asked several people at Myanmar Delight, the Yangon tour agency we used to book hotels and internal transportation for recommendations on places to eat in Bagan. While no one offered any suggestions on specific restaurants, everyone we talked to suggested that we practice caution about eating Myanmar buffet there due to a high incidence of stomach problems in the warmer climate of Bagan.
As a result, some in our small group of 3 were wary about venturing too far from the hotel for meals. The concern was heightened as one person in our little group arrived in Bagan already experiencing a mild upset stomach. So we ended up eating more of our meals than we would have liked at the Kumudara Hotel restaurant.
The juices were imitation but breakfast at the hotel was better than average with toast, fresh fruit, chicken sausage, eggs of various types including an omelet to order station and some Myanmar breakfast specialties.
And the setting of the tables couldn’t have been better. There was some indoor seating available but we always chose to sit outside on the deck where we could see small pagodas and temples in virtually every direction. In addition, depending on the time of day, we could occasionally hear kids at a nearby school singing their language lessons during the day or the monks chanting prayers at an even closer monastery in the evenings.
Prices at the hotel restaurant were very reasonable and the service was attentive if a bit uneven. But we were happy to sit at our table looking out at the amazing landscape waiting for our meals. I especially appreciated when our server suggested an alternative beer to what I had ordered as it would be served colder.
One additional warning we had heard about the food in Bagan was that even at the hotel, we should order “Chinese food.” This was because of the pattern of cooking Myanmar food in the morning, plating it and holding it at room temperature till serving. Whereas in other cities, we had been told this was not a problem until the evening meal; in the warmer climate of Bagan, we were told even eating Myanmar buffet at lunch time could present a problem. By ordering a Chinese dish, we were pretty much assured that what we ordered would be prepared from scratch and cooked to order, thus avoiding the food sitting all day at room temperature issue.
So over our 3 days there, we ordered just about every Chinese dish on the menu at the Kumudara Hotel restaurant. The stir fried chicken with vegetables was our favorite of those. We also enjoyed Tempura dishes, both prawn and mixed vegetable and (sorry to have to admit to this but) French fried potatoes.
If you read our general Myanmar food notes, this was one of the places where the bread on the chicken sandwich came with a butter replacement product that was pretty awful.
From our experiences I would say it’s probably best to avoid the desserts at the Kumudara Hotel restaurant. I have a personal fondness for banana pudding. One day I received an email from a friend back home suggesting that when we got back from our trip, we should meet him and his wife at our favorite restaurant for banana pudding so when I saw banana pudding on the menu at the Kumudara, I had to order it. What was served was more like a very dry bread pudding with some banana flavors but nowhere near a satisfying dessert.
Having not learned my lesson yet, on the next night we ordered crème caramel hoping to see something like the flan we love in Mexico. What came out was more like a mold formed oval of slightly sweet scrambled eggs.
After that, when we felt the urge for a sweet at the end of the meal, we ordered the fruit plate.
Shwe Myanmar / Near Tharbar Hotel, Bagan-Nyaung U Main Road.| Old Bagan, Bagan, Myanmar
The one meal of note in Bagan not eaten at the hotel restaurant came on our full day of touring. Shwe Myanmar restaurant is a typical Myanmar buffet style place where the food just keeps coming. There was a difference of opinion at our table about the quality of the food at this place. I loved it but some others were put off by some of the traditional flavors (and odors) for dishes like the potato curry. There were a lot more locals than tourists here during our visit. The restaurant staff kept bringing food until we told them to stop.
At the end of the meal our waitress brought palm sugar candy, shredded tea leaf and galangal in a covered dish for dessert. Our guide Minthu explained how the different elements should be combined for the proper blend and flavor. I should mention that we noticed patrons eating from the bowl with a small spoon and returning the spoon to the bowl for the next patron to also use. The cost of the meal was roughly $3 USD per person.
I should point out that no new stomach issues arose for any of our group of 3 after eating at the Shwe Myanmar.