Billed as “the first Shan-style fine dining restaurant in Myanmar,” Shan Yoe Yar, owned by the Asian Sun Group of companies, is part of the growing wave of investment in Yangon’s restaurant industry. Opened in June 2013, this popular eatery produces tasty, attractively presented fare.
“The food is authentic here. You can get Shan tofu and noodles outside, but here is the real cuisine,” says Sai Htun Myo Thant, the restaurant’s director, an ethnic Shan who hails from Taunggyi but is a long-time resident of Yangon. “Everything is authentic. You can still get noodles, but there’s much more to Shan cuisine. And it’s healthy, not oily food.”
Sai Htun Myo Thant gained his restaurant experience working in Japan, and from 2002 to 2007, he ran a Japanese restaurant called The Planet on Bo Aung Kyaw Street. Now, with Shan Yoe Yar, he is returning to his roots and hoping to win a wider appreciation for his native cuisine.
As director, his main task is overseeing the entire operation. Occasionally, however, he will also get very hands-on in the kitchen. “I’m sometimes the chef, when I feel like it,” he says.
The kitchen, spread over two floors, is unusual in its design. Hot meals are cooked on the ground floor, while soup, salads and appetizers are prepared upstairs. Surrounded by plate-glass windows, the modern kitchen stands in striking contrast to the traditional architecture of the rest of the building, itself heavily renovated with new wood.
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“The old house was always here. There used to be seven colonial villas occupying this whole stretch of the road. Here we kept the frame and transformed the inside into a Shan-style restaurant. The managing director wanted it to become like a Shan palace. We took inspiration from those places,” explains Daw Ingyin Zaw, the restaurant’s business development manager.
Upstairs, there are four private rooms themed according to different parts of Shan State and decorated with black-and-white photos of famous people and places—including, of course, pictures of Sao ShweTheik, the first president of Myanmar and last Saopha of Yawnghwe (Nyaung Shwe). A central hall connects the rooms, which are perfect for meetings, workshops and celebrations.
Downstairs is clean and comfortable, but decidedly less cozy, with bright fluorescent lighting, strong air-conditioning and two large TVs for entertainment.
Shan food is known to be less oily than other cuisines in Myanmar, making it an enjoyable alternative to the standard local fare. For 10,000 kyat, the vegetarian set—consisting of stir-fried okra, a delicious eggplant soup, stir-fried mixed vegetables, cute potato croquettes, and crispy fried leek root, served with rice, coffee and fruit—will leave you with a satisfied, “clean” feeling at the end.
Other specialties include a traditional beef salad called Sa Kone for 14,500 kyat and Sa Ta Lu (Shan-style pork salad) for 13,000 kyat. There’s also deep-fried sea bass with tamarind for 13,500 kyat, crispy fried fish tail with tomato for 8,000 kyat, a Shan-style red curry with winkles for 5,000 kyat, fried bamboo shoots stuffed with seaweed for 5,000 kyat and Mine Tauk, an eggplant curry, for 4,000 kyat.
Other highlights of the menu include the appetizer of Inle Hinn Htoke (steamed chicken and Shan vegetables in banana leaf) for 2,000 kyat and the wonderful salad selection of Shan tofu, papaya, pennywort, cucumber, seaweed and spinach.
And yes, they have the famous Shan noodles. For 2,200 kyat, you can try their Kyaing Tong Meeshay (eastern Shan-style noodles with pickled mustard, dried soybean powder soup).
Shan YoeYar does corporate functions, private events, tour groups and deliveries in the area. “The clientele is approximately 50-50 locals and internationals. Business is good, and picking up,” says Sai Htun Myo Thant.
Shan Yoe Yar
Wa Dan St, Lanmadaw Township
Monday to Sunday, 6 am – 10 pm
This story first appeared in the March 2014 print edition of The Irrawaddy magazine.