After being cooped up in an office all day, nothing beats sipping a cold beer outdoors. And with this rainy season being relatively dry, Jazz Café & Bar – with its open-air terraces- is a great option for a post-work drink. Since opening mid-June 2020, the two-story container bar is one of the busiest venues at the Yangon Night Market.
Jazz Café & Bar is located at the Yangon Night Bazaar, ideally positioned near the junction of Strand Road and Sule Pagoda Road. The bar has enviable views as it is across from Rosewood Hotel, an immaculately restored colonial building.
Despite it being a weeknight, the upstairs at Jazz Café & Bar was full, with a mixed crowd: groups of friends, couples and a family were sipping drinks and chatting as the sun began to set. We arrived in time to catch the last minutes of happy hour – or rather, happy hours- which runs from 4-7 pm daily. The selected promotion drinks are a bargain during this period with draft Heineken beer just 1,000 kyats, wine by the glass at 2,000 kyats, and gin and tonics 2,500 kyats.
We opted for bar-style tables overlooking Strand Road, watching the passing pedestrians and rush hour traffic. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it was noisy with buses and cars noisily driving along Strand Road and trucks careening down the access road behind. If there was jazz music playing, as the bar name suggested, we could not hear it over the roar.
However, when we moved downstairs after sunset, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the ground floor terrace was far less noisy. And, as a bonus, we were treated to some jazz music piping through the speakers at just the right volume. For jazz aficionados, the music will be disappointing – as it was, in fact, jazz covers of pop songs such as Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ – but it was still pleasing to the ear after the cacophony of traffic we experienced upstairs.
The menu featured a selection of snacks on one page and an equal number of main courses on the other. Rather than the usual array of bar fodder, many of Jazz Café & Bar’s dining options were creative fusion items such as penne pasta with Cajun-style salmon and chicken tandoori salad. The owners have also ensured that vegetarian diners also have a wide range of meat-free options from which to choose, including pita bread and hummus, crispy cheese quesadillas, and even a vegetarian burger.
To accompany our drinks, we sampled the fish fingers and the ‘mixed local deep-fried platter’, each costing 5,000 kyats. The latter was an overflowing plate of a variety of tempura, spring rolls, and samosa along with a side of tamarind sauce. It was a nice snack for sharing with friends and paired perfectly with the cold Heineken. I was sceptical about the fish fingers, envisioning the horribly processed sticks I’ve had elsewhere, but these were delicious and made from real fish pieces. The serving size consisted of six fish sticks, a Sriracha-mayonnaise dipping sauce, and pickled vegetables.
Jazz Café & Bar is a welcomed addition to Yangon’s al fresco dining scene. With its central location, friendly service, and high-quality food and beverage options, the bar is a fun, casual place to have a few drinks with friends. Just be sure to sit downstairs or come a bit later in the evening if you wish to enjoy the sounds of music rather than the sounds of traffic!