Thursday, September 21, 2017

Review: Mexican stew musings at The Muses

I don't really know what postmodernism is, but I think there’s something like it going on at the Muses Café & Restaurant.

The Myses Beef Stew. Photo: RJ Vogt / The Myanmar TimesThe Myses Beef Stew. Photo: RJ Vogt / The Myanmar Times

Situated just off Nar Nat Taw Street in the Diamond Condominium Complex in Kamaryut township, the subtle restaurant has an air of understatement that is rarely seen in this city. Bare walls force the eye to focus on the only decorations in the place – a collection of aesthetically pleasing wines and liquors perched haphazardly on a window shelf. The smattering of black and white tables and chairs echoes the black and white walls in a chorus of monochromatic reverence, accented by a blood-red back wall that hides the kitchen from sight. The minimalism draws attention to a slightly discoloured patch of ceiling across from our table – but what Yangon restaurant isn’t a little worse for wear?

When I commented on the plain aesthetic, my dinner companion, who had visited The Muses before, pointed to the corner: “They do have a wine fridge.”

Indeed, it feels like exactly the sort of place that should have a wine fridge, the sort of place that lends itself to quiet, sophisticated dialogue about the finer points of Infinite Jest – or in the case of my companion and I, the potato onion soup.

It might be the American in me who thinks potato soup is, by definition, rich and creamy and made of mostly butter. That American in me was therefore quite surprised to find that The Muses’ Potato Onion Soup was, in fact, thin and watery and not at all buttery. Nevertheless, I cannot deny that the soup was interesting: With hints of flavour, neither pleasant nor revolting, it is the kind of dish one might be grateful for if they were ill, but I can’t say I would order it again.

The main courses, on the other hand, will bring me back to The Muses the next time I find myself near Junction Square Mall. The Mexican Beef Stew was packed with tender, juicy cubes of beef, devoid of the fatty layers one might typically expect. The flavours were more Halal than Mexican, and the French baguette, lightly buttered and salted, lent a European feel to a dish that is incorrectly named, though superbly priced at K4200.

My guest opted for the Seared Curry Basa Fish. At K5800, it’s one of the more expensive options on the menu, but it’s well worth the price tag. A rich, creamy curry paired neatly with the light taste of the fish below, all set against a steaming heap of rice and a simply savory salad.

We also shared a Prawn Garlic Sauce – the most disappointing of the night. At K4500, I expected the prawns to be at least fully cleaned, but instead, a half-hearted effort necessitated that the eater use fingers to crack the remaining shell off the crustaceans. This wouldn’t normally be such a chore, had the garlic sauce not had the pungency and texture you would expect a Myanmar garlic sauce to have – that is, dense and greasy.

In the grand tradition of the Yangon service industry, an overabundance of servers kept our dirty plates cleared and our every desire fulfilled in a snap. My margarita (K3500) and my companion’s dirty martini (K3500, served with five olives!) were excellently prepared and strong enough to generate the slight, behind-the-temple buzz you hope for after two cocktails.

As we paid the check and prepared to leave, I surveyed the minimalist scene before me. Already the plates were gone, revealing again the bare table that greeted us when we arrived. I wondered for a moment – if deconstructed of its contextual setting in Yangon, would I have enjoyed the meal as much as I did? How absolute can enjoyment truly be?

Like I said, I don’t know much about postmodernism. But I believe in The Muses, and I’ll be back again for that beef stew.

Delicacy Bistro (formerly The Muses Cafe & Restaurant) 
4919 Pyay Road, Kamaryut township (near Novotel Yangon Max Hotel)
Tel: 01-2306240, 09-2637-33355

Restaurant Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Food: 7
Beverage: 8
Service: 8
Value: 8
X-factor: 7

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