Nestled down a quiet little backstreet, right around the corner from the Shwedagon Pagoda and Kandawgyi Lake, Bodhi Nava Cafe and Hostel’s Thai food and modernist decor are bringing a taste of Bangkok to Yangon. We once reviewed Bodhi Nava in 2018 but we did it again according to a request of our reader.
Located in a former car workshop, the cafe’s stark urban interior still manages to feel warm and inviting thanks to the two large French doors at the front.
The menu explains that Bodhi is the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, and Nava is the Pali word for the number nine, so nine Bodhi trees.
I’d been to the owners’ much-beloved Thai restaurant, Green Gallery, and so was looking forward to trying what Bodhi Nava had to offer.
There were both Mediterranean and Asian dishes on the menu, and I started my meal with a plate of the steaming hot falafel bites.
The balls were deep fried, with a satisfying crunch. The taste and smell were amazing — a spicy ball of goodness! But the tahini dressing that accompanied them was a bit of a disappointment, as the dish could have used a stronger sauce (perhaps a tangy yogurt dip) to stand up to the savouriness of the falafel.
Next I ordered a tomato and “Burmese” halloumi salad. This was by far the best dish I had. Halloumi is hard to find in Yangon, and the combination of the cheese with tomatoes, mint and peanuts really knocked it out of the park.
For my main course, I ordered Khao Swe – Thai coconut noodles with chicken. Once properly seasoned with chili pepper and lime, these were smooth and tangy, with just the right amount of spice (a prior review from Myanmore, however, mentioned that the chicken was overcooked and this has not changed).
To drink, I tried a ginger, lemongrass, mint and honey juice. The taste of the ginger and lemongrass was strong and refreshing, just make sure you ask for sugar in yours!
Outside, monks passed me by on their way to collect alms, and a pariah dog curled up to take a nap in the early morning sunshine. Imitating my companion, I drifted off to sleep myself.
Overall, Bodhi Nava Cafe struck me as a breezy and relaxing place to hang out all day in an increasingly busy city, sip a cappuccino (by way of Sitthar Coffee Co.) and watch the world go by.
Address: 17 Bahan 2nd Street, Bahan Tsp, Yangon
Opening Hours: 11am – 8pm