There’s something courageous about opening a small restaurant in Yangon in current times, when even some of the biggest names in the culinary scene are struggling to fill chairs. But while fine-dining options may be facing tougher times, the café scene, boosted by Yangon’s newfound love affair with coffee, is thriving. Each month a scattering of small cafés open across Yangon and the latest addition to this list is Chinatown 125 Café, found on the bustling 19th Street.
Deeply Instagramable, the small two-storey café is styled like a classic Chinese teashop, with red walls, low tables, Chinese art on the walls and the prettiest selection of crockery you ever did see.The first thing that tempted me to visit Chinatown 125 Café was a picture of black charcoal dim sum on their Facebook page, however upon arriving I was told that they weren’t in stock – and neither were three other items I selected from the food menu. In the end I settled for a slightly strange order, made-up of the dishes from the menu that were available; Hong Kong orange chicken (3,500Ks), fried okra (2,300Ks), a brownie cheese cake (2,300Ks) and a hazelnut latte (3,500Ks).
The Hong Kong chicken was a bit confusing; although the dish tasted good, the neon orange sauce completely took the crispiness out
of the deep-fired chicken, rendering it a slightly soggy. On the other hand, the fried okra was superb with a light batter and well-balanced spicy dipping sauce that truly proved just what the kitchen was capable of.
But of course, the main attraction to visiting Chinatown 125 Café is the coffee – and rightly so. Not only was the hazelnut latte delicately flavoured, bringing out the nuttiness in the coffee beans, it was also decorated with a cute bit of latte art to show that real care had been taken too. To accompany my coffee the slice of brownie cheesecake was the ideal sweet treat.
While the staff who took my order were friendly, the service was a little haphazard with dishes taking up to 45 minutes to appear – and some not appearing at all until after a gentle reminder.
All told, would I recommend jumping in a taxi to visit Chinatown 125 Café at the first possible opportunity? Probably not. Would I recommend popping in for a coffee if you’re already in the area? Absolutely. Chinatown 125 Café may not have the fullest fridge or most attentive staff in Yangon, but it has charm and potential in abundance and given time and a support, the rest is sure the follow.