After reviewing a spate of pretty lackluster restaurants towards the end of 2017, I was hoping for a positive dining experience in my first assignment of 2018. Signature Fine Dining / The Garden Bistro on the shore of Kandawgyi Lake did not disappoint. Good service, pleasant surroundings and an ample range of well-cooked and reasonably-priced dishes make this place worth a visit.
Before I begin in earnest I should clear up any confusion around the name: Signature Fine Dining refers to the inside, air-conditioned portion of the restaurant while the outside verandah overlooking the park is The Garden Bistro. Both have the same menu and service. I visited on a moderately cool and sunny lunch in January and opted for a seat on the terrace, charmed by the wooden and rattan furniture and the vintage ceiling and standing fans.
The service was good from the outset, the staff well-mannered and enthusiastic. The menu features restaurant classics from China, Thailand, Myanmar, and the West, with the latter taking up the largest proportion. I was surprised to see some French staples including duck confit, boeuf bourgnion and chicken cordon bleu alongside the pasta, pizza, burgers.
I went for a cross-section of the cuisines on offer: Pasta chili aglio olio, clay pot rice with chicken, lotus root and pork rib soup. I ordered sautéed spinach and green beans as sides because it’s January and I’m feeling portly after the festive season. The pasta itself was cooked very well, just on the edge of al dente, with good quality olive oil, strong garlic notes and a nice warm heat from the paprika chili. It was simple but comforting and probably worth the 9,000 kyats price tag. The two sides (3,000 kyats each) hit the spot—fresh and lightly seasoned.
The soup was also a winner. It tasted as though the lotus root was cooked separated from the broth and added later—it had that brilliant crunchy yet chewy texture that is so easily lost. The pork tasted good and the soup was well, if perhaps a little enthusiastically, seasoned. The clay pot was the low point of the meal, but was not terrible. The rice was a little wet and sloppy. The vegetable and chicken were fresh, but the whole dish was a bit greasy and had a generic Chinese takeout flavor. I spied an impressive-looking cake cabinet but, because January, I didn’t try any on this occasion.
I believe the Garden Bistro is a slightly overlooked option for us in search of a nice al fresco venue close to downtown. I’m not sure I would go back for the food specifically and try the indoor restaurant, but I would go back for a lazy lunch before or after a Kandawgyi Lake stroll. It may also be a good place for afternoon drinking—I tried a dry martini and it wasn’t bad for the 4,500 kyats I paid. Or breakfast, since it opens at 7am.