Walking along downtown Yangon’s Pansodan Street is a visual trip down its colonial past — the British architectural heritage is present and alive (despite noticeable wear and tear), starting with the Telegraph Office from the corner of Maha Bandoola and Pansodan, down to Strand Road, where iconic buildings like the Port Authority Office and the Strand Hotel face out to the riverfront.
The Pansodan is the latest addition to this area’s culinary scene. Fashioning itself as Yangon’s first-ever “Burmese brasserie,” the restaurant serves classic Burmese dishes with distinct European flair. Founded and managed by Pun + Projects, the same team behind Rau Ram, Port Autonomy, and the revamp of the oldest expat watering hole, 50th Street, Pansodan aims to become a “newly lit beacon on Yangon’s most celebrated culinary street.”
Housed inside a former Bank of India building, the warmly lit interiors, covered from floor to ceiling with chevron marble that carries just a hint of gold, harkens back to British colonial times when the social club was the center of all the action. Fortunately, clubs and restaurants nowadays don’t limit who can and can’t dine in their establishments.
Coconuts Yangon sampled the Pansodan’s menu during its soft opening, from classics like the Keema Palata and Si Chat Kauk Swel, to twists on classic bistro dishes like the Burmese Beef Tartare, and homemade Burmese Pate made with traditional Burmese spices. We also ate some grilled river prawns that seriously rocked our world — but more on that later.
Our course began with their signature cocktail. Named after the restaurant and the main thoroughfare on which it sits, Pansodan the drink is balanced yet bold, cool and refreshing with herbal notes (6,000 kyats/US $4).
The spicy Keema Palata (5,000 kyats/US $3.32) is perhaps the best we’ve had in the city, seasoned perfectly and enveloped in a warm and chewy paratha, and chopped into bite-sized pieces. The next dish, the Burmese Pate (5,000 kyats/US $3.32), served with a vinegar reduction and pickled vegetables, is a fantastic complement and textural contrast to the Keema Palata: sweet, light and creamy.
Just as we were licking our fingers (manners!), the Stuffed Green Chiles (4,000 kyats/US $2.66) and Tomato Bread (3,000 kyats/US $2) were served, followed by the Burmese Beef Tartare (15,000 kyats/US $10). The chiles were, disappointingly, not spicy at all, but the tomato bread packed a nice and tangy herbal one-two punch that paired perfectly with the lightly toasted bread.
The potato puff (7,000 kyats/US $4.65), with a warm potato and spicy ground beef filling enveloped in a deep-fried cocoon of wheat flour, was slightly steaming when it arrived. The lightly crisp and airy bread was the perfect delivery device for the flavorful curry that rested on top of a tangy and fresh cabbage salad with mixed herbs.
The Burmese Beef Tartare, prepared with turmeric, paprika and chili powder, was a standout among the appetizers – subverting both Burmese and European traditions of how to prepare cubed, uncooked red meat. According to Philippe Eckert, Director of Food & Beverage Operations at Pun + Projects, the raw dish hasn’t drawn any criticism from customers in Yangon — and that’s surprising, since most people in Myanmar see uncooked meat as tantamount to blasphemy.
“We haven’t had any complaints about the tartare so far,” Eckert told us.
On to the main courses – the Si Chat Kauk Swel, the sirloin steak, and the aforementioned grilled river prawns. Si Chat Kauk Swel (7,500 kyats/US $5) is hard to improve because of its simplicity. The dish consists simply of noodles tossed in garlic oil, but here at Pansodan, they’ve elevated them by adding deeply savory, melt-in-your-mouth beef tongue. A crunchy element is added with a sprinkling of fried shallots and garlic bits, which make a great contrast to the chewy noodles.
While the sirloin steak (22,000 kyats/US $14.60) was a little tough, the laphet-chimichurri sauce carried the chewy meat above and beyond what it could have done by itself, off-setting the beefy flavor with deep, tangy taste and tingly mouth-feel that only laphet can bring.
But the show-stopper, the highlight of the evening — for us, anyway — were the grilled river prawns (13,000 kyats/US $8.60). Stop what you are doing right now and hop on the closest moving vehicle, Yangonites, and go get a taste of the best prawns that we’ve had in this city, this country, period.
Time for dessert. We were served the kitchen’s matcha crepes filled with red bean paste, and their interpretation of a carrot cake (6,000 kyats each/US $4). Dessert offerings are currently on rotation daily, but Eckert told Coconuts that the Pansodan will wheel out a dessert cart in the near future, which will put all available sweets on full display, just as a traditional European restaurant would.
“Eventually we want to bring out an entire dessert cart and the guests can pick and choose — the classic European experience,” he said.
The carrot cake was solid, but it was that matcha crepe that really brought us to another realm — making us do omg this is heaven eye rolls with every bite.
If we had to rank our top 10 reasons for visiting the Pansodan, it would look something like this:
- Grilled River Prawns,
- Match-Crepe with Red bean paste,
- Did I mention those prawns?
- If you don’t want the last bite of your match-crepe, can I have it?
- The Burmese pate and the Burmese beef tartare
- The interior decoration (classy!),
- The cocktails,
- The friendly and knowledgeable staff
- The Si Chat Kauk Swel
- For real, those freaking prawns.
Need a tl;dr? Here it is:
Just across the street from the former High Court Building, an iconic colonial-era building that housed Myanmar’s Supreme Court until 2006, and a stone’s throw away from Rangoon Tea House, Sharky’s and Sofear and Co., the Pansodan stands out as the bolder and more confident choice for those hoping to try reimagined and refined Burmese cuisine with an extra kick.
The Pansodan is at 106 Pansodan Road, Kyauktada Township, Yangon, Myanmar
Open from 10 AM to 11 PM, daily
Reservations: +95 9 44263 1066