By R. E. Saw
It was a simple task; go to a new bar, enjoy the drinks and write about it. However, the address (No. 22 Kabar Aye Pagoda Road) seemed too succinct for a road that long. Google Map was not helpful, neither was the information up on the web. Hence, this reviewer with the perpetual fear of getting lost called up the bar for directions and went straight to the hashtag section of Instagram. Which was when the Dear Editor called and informed, “Do you know that the bar is downstairs and there is La Carovana (Contemporary Italian Restaurant) upstairs?” Port Autonomy is in the same compound. There are no signs to be found outside on the main road.
It is a very smart use of available space by Pun+Projects. The New Boris Bar, with its striped walls and stark white tiled floor, feels like the living room of a very stylish friend who is affluent but also very nice and fun loving. The room is nicely lit and the music, described as mixture of tribal beats and vintage tracks, is pleasant enough to soothe any music lovers. The rattan loungers at the bar are locally sourced and the fabric of the upholstery is from the hills of Chin State.
The drinks are influenced by the flavours of South East Asia and created by the Hong Kong-based cocktail specialists, Tequila Mockingbird. The Market Cocktail ($10), is the star of the drinks at The New Boris, and was a delight and showstopper from the first sip. The fusion of vodka, with flavours such as lemon grass, kaffir lime and chilli, successfully realises the concept behind the name. The Whiskey Sour ($12) was good but for a drink that is available at almost every bar in Yangon (some with much cheaper price), The New Boris bartenders may need to step up their game. According to the bartender, the Irrawaddy Old Fashion ($12), with Bourbon, Burmese spice syrup, bitters and citrus oil, is also a favourite for both male and female bar-goers.
The menu has many fun choices, with even better names to match, and is constantly updated to bring a newer and better experience for the punter. The clientele are mostly young, working adults in need of a good drink after a long day at work to unwind with friends and stare at their phones. Then again, the review was done on a Friday night. Also spotted were diners from upstairs who were getting their after dinner drinks and smoke.
To review the food at The New Boris is to review La Carovana’s because the latter has been altered to cater to the crowd downstairs as well. To try the Bruschetta ($4) for the starter set, tomato and carponata were chosen. It tasted “strong”. This is a word carefully chosen after much deliberation because this reviewer did not love it immediately but wanted to order more. Reaction wise, it was one confusing dish. At the time of eating it, an ice cold beer appeared to be an immediate necessity. There was however no need for such, as the next dish, the Zucchini Carpaccio ($7) was so fresh, and nicely crunchy with a clear seasoning and an olive oil of superb quality. It made me feel like Gwyneth Paltrow, and be smug about what a healthy and clean eater I was. This is definitely a dish to try. The Hokkaido Scallop ($28), which was changed to a smaller portion of the main dish, was very subtle in taste and the flavours beautifully complemented each other. Overall, both the drinks and the food are the reason to visit this bar.
Servicewise, the waiters and waitresses are all young and very polite. They can explain the ingredients and the preparation well in Burmese when asked (Interrogation is the fitting word). However, when the same question was to be answered in English, it became the verbal repeat of the menu. The suspicion is that it is the weakness in the English language, not the knowledge of the products, that is plaguing the staff of The New Boris.
The young team at the New Boris are, to steal a line from a famous food critic, not “pretty mediocrity”, the disease that is plaguing the Yangon food scene where the focus is on the decoration, fast wifi and fancy names, while the chef and the good waiters are an afterthought. Chef Kevin Ching explained that his idea is for the food at The New Boris was to be modern, playful and affordable for a group of friends to share and enjoy together. He does not think that fine dining has to be old fashioned. This vision has recently been ruthlessly scoffed and mocked in a scathing article from a foreign magazine. It was an amusing read for a bystander (guilty as charged), but the Chef in person does not deserve such at all.
Passionate and dedicated, he came up to answer questions and then ran back to the kitchen, at the same time posting his dishes on social media. A few days after the visit, this reviewer emailed for a photo of the bruschetta that was ordered. Chef Kevin personally replied to the email, and got back with the photo in a few hours. He especially prepared it with the toppings that were chosen the day of the review, and sent back high-quality photos. This gesture totally won this reviewer over. Taste maybe subjective, but a good work ethic is universal. Chef Kevin is the man to be reckoned with in the food scene in Yangon.
To conclude, The New Boris is still a new bar in town and has lots of room for improvement. However, it sets itself apart from other places with its solid concept of a flexible yet stylish hangout delivering fun choices of drinks and food. Last but not least, it is the sincerity in its offering to the customers that makes you want to come back again.
Wine: $8-10/glass, $40+/bottle
Food: appetizers $14-18, mains $24-$34
Address: No.22, Kabar Aye Pagoda Road, Yangon, Myanmar
Opening Hours: 4:00 pm till Late