The owners of Yangon’s newest café, Rio, clearly have their finger on the city’s pulse. Situated in the heart of downtown, overlooking City Hall and Sule Pagoda, the restaurant plays up its Instagram-worthy views while also capitalizing on the coffee and brunch craze sweeping the city.
A recent visit proved this marketing is working during the café’s first month of operations. A steady stream of customers were sipping coffee, dining on sweet and savory breakfast items, and, of course, posing for photos on Rio’s balcony. The industrial-chic interior, with polished concrete from floor to ceiling, featured a mix of tables and counter-style seating, creating a comfortable space for groups of friends to socialize or for solo diners to relax.
The menu, available only by scanning the QR code, is limited to around a dozen food offerings and a similar number of drinks. Despite the small menu, the items are quite diverse and range from healthy smoothy bowls to eggs benedict, spaghetti Bolognese to fried calamari. I am always appreciative of restaurants who choose to do a few things well rather than trying to do it all, as is often the case in Yangon.
On the waitress’s suggestion, I ordered the Original Acai Bowl and a Truffle Cheese Sandwich for my friend. The main feature of Rio’s ‘all-day breakfast’ concept, the bowl consists primarily of frozen acai berries, a superfood from South America that is filled with vitamins, antioxidants, and other good-for-you compounds. On top of the purplish smoothy was a sprinkling of dried coconut, sliced banana, and crunchy granola and a small side dish of chia seed pudding. Each spoonful was a mouth-pleasing combination of textures and the slight sourness of the acai berries was balanced by the sweet toppings. With an 8500-kyat price tag, the serving size was on the small side however it is on par with the price for similar smoothie bowl offerings in town.
The savory sandwich, which smelled as amazing as it tasted, was a pleasant contrast to the sweetness of the acai bowl. The toasted slices of sourdough contained a generous spread of garlic-truffle oil and salty white cheese and were accompanied by a side salad of rocket (arugula), cherry tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar dressing. Deceptively simple in appearance compared to the acai bowl, the sandwich and salad were bursting with flavor and worthy of the 5500-kyat price.
Along with our dishes, we sampled Rio’s signature Nitro Cold Brew Coffee and a classic Flat White. The Flat White was as good as any I have had in Yangon, with just the right amount of foam to allow the espresso flavour to come through. The Nitro Cold Brew was an unexpected pleasant surprise. To make the drink, the cold brew is infused with nitrogen which creates a smooth body and foamy head, like a draft beer. It was refreshing and smooth but at 6000 kyats per glass, it is hard to justify ordering it on a regular basis.
Despite the crowds of Instagrammers dressed to impressed and industrial-chic design, Rio still has a relaxing and informal vibe. And while the prices may be too high to make Rio a frequent haunt, it is worth checking out for a quick morning coffee break or a lazy weekend brunch with friends.
Address: 23 Sule Pagoda Road, Kyauktada Township
Hours : Open 7 days a week, 07.00 – 20.000