Sunday, December 8, 2019

Spruce Pansodan: Hidden Gem with a Japanese Flair

Nested at the top of a luxury block of flats opposite the Rose Garden Hotel, The Spruce is hardly the kind of place you would stumble upon. In fact, it took me the better part of fifteen minutes to find it, wandering through what appeared to be a construction yard, groping blindly and calling out fearfully. Eventually, I stumbled into an apartment building, into a lift and was hoisted to the top floor, where lo and behold, there it was.

The Spruce is part of a Singaporean chain that has now opened its first branch here in Myanmar, perhaps because of the better electricity supply, according to one Myanmar minister. Although the restaurant was deserted when I arrived, the staff told me they get some traffic from the wealthy inhabitants of the housing estate, as well as Japanese diners looking for a taste of home.

The effusive manager of the Spruce explains that the restaurant identifies as Japanese European fusion, offering distinct breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. The menu itself is impressive in its breadth, and caters to a wide variety of potential diners. Find yourself thirsty at 8am? You can get a glass of red or white wine for only four dollars. In the mood for an English breakfast? No problem. Ramen more your thing? The Spruce have you covered.

I decided to swing by for the lunchtime options – available from 11am to 2.30pm. The Spruce offers a gourmet set lunch for ten dollars, starting with a soup, and ending with the chef’s daily dessert. One dollar more will get you a homemade coffee or tea.

The Japanese/Asian options include a variety of gyoza, bento boxes, Japanese style curry and spicy pork ramen, while pasta lovers can get beef cheek tagliatelle or chicken carbonara. Meanwhile, the “Spruce Specialties” include the Spruce Burger and Fish and Chips. Naturally, I felt obligated to order myself a fish and chips. Furthermore, I asked for a Kirin at 12pm and was served a pint, which argued well and set the tone for the rest of the meal.

Let’s take a quick moment to appreciate the Spruce’s selection of drinks. Guinness (notoriously hard to get due to Myanmar booze licensing laws) and Hoegaarden are available by the bottle, as are about twenty whiskeys ranging from ten to two thousand dollars (for the Hankey 40 year Bannister.) Despite repeated requests, this reviewers drinks budget could not be stretched to accommodate the 12 year Hakushu at a cool 450 dollars a bottle. Wine aficionados will also find themselves well catered for, with French, Italian, American, Aussie and Argentina varieties available by the bottle.

My partner ordered the Salmon teppanyaki (US$ 7). The flavor of the fish itself was very good, and the salmon well cooked and moist. The accompanying vegetables were also perfectly cooked, and the miso soup was warm and savory, umami notes. If it’s anything to go by, the Japanese menu is of a high quality.

Through the meal, we enjoyed excellent service from the attentive waiters, perhaps because the restaurant was expertly concealed at the top of a building, like a secret Star in Mario 64. The staff went out of their way to cater for our needs and desires, spoke excellent English and regularly checked in to make sure we were happy with the food and service. This was Singaporean service in Yangon, and anyone looking to make a good impression on a date without dramas over incorrect dishes could do much worse.

British breakfast (US$ 8).

I returned to the Spruce a week later, keen to sample the breakfast menu, pulled in by a desire for poached eggs and multigrain bread. This time I ordered the full British breakfast (US$ 8) – not English, mind you, but British.This included two eggs (I had poached) pork sausage, baked beans, smoked bacon, sautéed mushrooms, hash browns, grilled tomatoes and multigrain toast.) While the ketchup and beans were both a little sweet, in the American style, the overall dish was very solid, even if the bizarrely huge plate on which it was served threatened to overshadow the meal itself.

With warm staff, great views and a really nice selection of food, Spruce is a great up-market choice for late night dates, Brits abroad with a craving for a decent British breakfast, anyone looking for upmarket Japanese food with a good view and whiskey lovers searching for elusive bottles. Worth the struggle to find it and a good alternative to the Yangon standbys.

Address: 137 Upper Pansodan Road, Block (M8)#13-01, Mingala Taung Nyunt Township, Yangon
Tel: 09 752 341301
Open 6:30 am – 12 am

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