We arrived in Mandalay via the Malikha “express” river ferry from Bagan. The 6:00 am departure required that that we get out of bed by 5:00 am and the river trip took over 11 hours so by the time we got checked into the Emperor Hotel, we didn’t feel much like venturing too far for dinner.
So on that first night in Mandalay we looked at the menu for the hotel’s Chinese restaurant (where breakfast was served each day) and also at the menu for Bistro Café and Coffee, the hotel’s Western restaurant and we decided on the Bistro. In all honesty, we weren’t expecting much and initially the service was slow and unorganized but once the food hit the table, we were shocked at how good it was.
Over our 2-night/3-day stay in Mandalay, we had several meals there and just about everything was really, really good. Our favorites included grilled rosemary pork loin, which was served with mashed potatoes and steamed cauliflower, spaghetti bolanese and fried chicken wings.
Breakfast at the Emperor Hotel was served on the ground floor and offered seating inside or outside on a small enclosed patio. The presentation was simple but adequate. As usual in most hotel breakfast buffets we saw in Myanmar, there was a selection of juice or more accurately, juice flavored products. Toast, fried eggs, fresh fruit, chicken sausage, an Asian noodle dish and coffee or tea were also served. The service was friendly and prompt and the servers kept all buffet items replenished when needed.
Before departing for the train station for our travel to Thazi, we ordered take-away from the Bistro and later that evening enjoyed excellent chicken, veggie and cheese burgers (the later with bacon by request.) All 3 burgers were good not only my Myanmar standards but by international standards. There are no deserts on the menu but the fruit plate we ordered was excellent. We were so impressed with the food at the Bistro that before leaving Mandaly we sought out the chef to pay our compliments and and learned that he had previously worked as a chef in Singapore which is where he was first exposed to Western cuisine.
At the end of a full day of touring with our guide Soe Soe; we made a rest stop at Ya Mon Naing, a large indoor/outdoor restaurant down by the banks of the Ayarwaddy River to relax and watch the sunset. In looking around the patio area where we were seated, it appeared we were the only Westerners there on that particular day.
Initially, our biggest objective was to get something cold to drink. The Mandalay Beer fit the bill and turned out to be very reasonably priced to boot. But as long as we were there waiting for the sunset, we decided to order a snack. Three in our group of 5 opted for burgers of some form or another and both the veggie burger and chicken burger were well received. The grilled chicken was nicely cooked and the side orders of French fries were pretty good as well. Service was friendly but chaotic with some items coming out very quickly and others taking forever. In fact, 2 people at our table ordered the veggie burger. One was served very quickly but the other didn’t arrive until some others at our table had already finished their order.
Chances are you won’t be able to lunch there but one of the most enjoyable meals we had in all of Myanmar was lunch one day at the Moe Hti Aung Si Monastery and Meditation Center. Soe Soe seemed to have a close relationship with the monk in charge there and had received permission to bring small groups (No tour buses!) to not only visit the Center but also to be served the same lunch that the monks and nuns were served.
Typically, Myanmar monks will eat a simple breakfast very early in the morning and then a more elaborate lunch at about 11:00 am. That is their last meal of the day. We were told at some monasteries that we visited in Myanmar that the monks and nuns were allowed fruit juices in the afternoon but at this one, we were told they were allowed only water until breakfast the next day.
We were served an excellent lima bean soup that came with a bowl of crispy condiments (fried onions & roasted nuts), a good selection of different curries including some with chicken and fish and several vegetable dishes like stir fried string beans & garlic. Everything was good.
The ladies who served us were volunteers from the local neighborhood who prepared the food and served it to the monks and nuns at the Center. As shown in the video above, they were so kind to us and full of questions about who we were and where we came from. I am happy to report that we acquitted ourselves well and demonstrated to these kind ladies how much we enjoyed the meal.
After eating, several of the young nuns came by the table to talk to us as well and we enjoyed walking the grounds of the Center and adjacent school for the novice monks.