Here’s one more to every food hunter’s list of must-tries: authentic Chinese cuisine set in the heart of downtown that serves up traditional “La Mian” and exquisite Xiao Long Baos (steamed mini pork dumplings). 800 Bowls offers two levels of modern dining space with a casual and friendly atmosphere; its open kitchen concept treats diners to a curated spectacle of laborious dough rolling, twisting and stretching, with any given time of six to eight chefs working endlessly to fulfil orders.
We left the decision of ordering to the restaurant manager Teddy. Our appetizer, the Radish Pastry (3,000 Ks for a serving of 3) had a flaky crust that was wafer-thin – only skilful hands can execute – and within, a generous portion of radish filling that was moist, soft and just melted in our mouths. We’d have liked it better if there was a condiment; and here’s an advice: have the dish sit for a while otherwise risk getting scalded by the hot filling inside!
Next was the “La Mian with Pork Chop” (4,500 Ks). The dish actually tasted better than it looked; it could do with more ingredients and garnish for presentation, but understandable that these would detract the essence of what “La Mian” should be about: a humble, simple dish of chewy-textured noodles, each strand consistent in thickness and length, in a rich, flavourful broth (kudos to the local chefs who have mastered the traditional Chinese dough-stretching skill!). The pork slices came separate so they do not end up soggy, were soft and tender, but were a tad dry – maybe a sauce condiment e.g. mayo would have made it perfect. For the more adventurous diners, the menu also offered “La Mian” with various protein choices; for the spice lovers, the “La Mian with Pork Dumpling in Hot Chili Vinaigrette” is highly recommended (4,500 Ks).
Our highlight of the evening: Original Xiao Long Bao (4,000 Ks for a serving of 6 mini dumplings). They were exquisite – made with finesse and consistency and packed with flavour from generous pork filling and a rich broth within. Here’s a tip to enjoy its full flavour: scoop it up carefully onto a spoon, make a small bite into the skin and suck the broth out. Try not to break the skin as you scoop it up! For those who might fancy extra toppings of crab roe and cheese bits, opt for the Extreme Xiao Long Bao for an extra 1,000 Ks. This dish is highly recommended and surely worth the wait as it was made fresh from scratch on the spot.
Next were the Sweet & Sour Pork (7,000 Ks) and Sautéed Prawns in Kong Bao Sauce (13,000 Ks). For diners who prefer heavier flavours, these wok-fried cooked dishes are also recommended. The pork dish was superb: bite-sized slices were soft, juicy and tender, mixed in with cut pineapples, capsicums and onions in a rich tangy sauce. The sautéed prawn dish was equally good, the peanuts added crunch and texture. Personally however, we found the prawn dish a tad spicy that it overwhelmed the natural taste of the prawns and other ingredients; less of it would give it a perfect balance of flavours. The menu also offered other cooked dishes including fish, vegetables and staples.
Our desserts were Pan-fried Pumpkin Pastry (2,500 Ks for a serving of 3) and Chilled Mango Pudding (2,000 Ks). The pumpkin pastry was light, its sweetness was lifted by the icing sugar, and had a unique texture and taste which reminded us of nian gao (Chinese New Year cake). The mango pudding, with a Zen-like appeal, was smooth with a bean curd texture, but it could have been exceptional if the taste of mango were apparent. Mango shaves or bits could add texture too. We wound down our meal with complimentary fragrant Chinese tea.
The evening’s service was outstanding; staff was friendly, efficient, attentive, patient and thoughtful. The seating layout was comfortably spaced out and flexible (whether diners come as individuals, in pairs or groups of 6). The price point of most dishes was relatively high, but definitely worth every penny for superb quality of dining. This place is highly recommended and we’re sure to patronize 800 bowls over and over again.
800 Bowls is located next to KBZ Bank at the Asia Business Centre, Unit G06/07 on the corner of Maha Bandoola and 48th Street in Bohtataung twp, Yangon. The restaurant is open daily from 11am-11pm, so long as the last order is in by 9:30pm.