Sunday, August 20, 2017

Review: Atlas: Yangon’s hottest new rooftop

When writing this column, I often think that I could save myself hours sitting behind a laptop, agonising over adjectives to describe foie gras or synonyms for “moist”, if I could simply write “It was great. Go!” or, “There was a cockroach in my soup. Avoid!” and leave it at that. Suffice to say, swanky new rooftop bar Atlas would definitely come under the former. But after we shelled out US$40 for two on cocktails and tapas, my editor is understandably expecting more bang for his buck.

Photo: Nyan Zay Htet / The Myanmar TimesPhoto: Nyan Zay Htet / The Myanmar Times

The latest venture by the folks behind German restaurant Mahlzeit, Atlas is hotly tipped – as far as anything is “hotly tipped” in Yangon – to become one of the city’s most fashionable rooftop hangouts. This would usually be all the evidence I needed that I should stay far away, but since I’m a sucker for a panoramic view of Shwedagon as much as the next expat, off I went.

Happily, it’s not just the impressive 360-degree view over the city that makes Atlas worth the visit. Unlike some of Yangon’s other rooftop bars, which let the shiny gold tourist magnet do all the work pulling in customers while they serve a few rubbish, over-priced cocktails, Atlas would be a great bar even without the view. The comfortable outdoor couches, chill-out music and tropical plants exude a laid-back, holiday vibe, so that 12 floors up from the chaotic street, cocktail in hand, you can almost imagine you’re at a fancy beach resort somewhere. Without the beach, obviously – there’s only so much some expensive deck furniture and a few glasses of fizz can do.

Photo: SuppliedPhoto: Supplied

As well as an extensive selection of Moet champagnes and wine, there’s also a very reasonably priced cocktail menu, helpfully listed in order of potency. We opted for the “strong” Scorpion (K5000) – a boozy, fruity concoction with a refreshing kick – and the very gingery Ginger Cosmo (K4500), served with a spattering of fiery fresh ginger, which shot straight to the top of my favourite Yangon cocktails list (learn how to make it here). If your tipple of choice isn’t on the list the friendly staff can make it for you, or tell them your favourite flavours and they’ll knock you up something special.

There’s also a small but regularly changing selection of tapas from the Mahlzeit kitchen downstairs. The Dutch Bitterballen (K6000), a kind of croquette-come-meatball served with a mustard dip, were delicious, as were the delicate Thai Prawnballs (K8000), served on a stick of fragrant lemongrass. Admittedly, they’re pretty pricey for what are effectively a few mouthfuls, but if you’re knocking back a few of those Scorpions you could do a lot worse for a bar snack to keep you upright.

The kitchen did push the boundaries of acceptability a bit with the so-called “bacon-wrapped mini-hotdog”, which consisted of mostly dry bread and heaps of mayonnaise with a tiny blob of cheap sausage buried underneath. It was the kind of snack you might be forced to eat at a children’s party – except that the host presumably wouldn’t try to shaft you for K4000 afterwards. Here’s hoping a “regularly changing menu” means dropping the hotdog before any more of you make the same mistake.

Photo: Nyan Zay HtetPhoto: Nyan Zay Htet

Hotdog high jinks aside, I can’t think of a better high-up spot to spend a cool winter evening sipping cocktails. With more pizazz than expat-favourite Alfa, and far better cocktails than used-to-be-favourite Vista, the “OMG you can see Shwedagon!” factor is sure to win over visiting guests and the large seating areas make it a perfect spot to celebrate a special occasion.

Or, to put it simply: It was great. Go.

Atlas Rooftop Lounge
84 Pan Hlaing Road,
Sanchaung township

Restaurant Rating: 3.5/5
Food: 6
Beverage: 8
Service: 6
Value: 7
X-factor: 10
Tax sticker? Y

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