By: Susan Bailey
European restaurants are on the rise in Mandalay with local residents, especially university students, taking a keen interest in western food. However, many have closed after just a few months in operation. Once the novelty of the new restaurant wears off, many diners return to their old Asian favorites or try other new venues.
Raymond’s Food Cottage has bucked that trend, despite being located on a street surrounded by longer-running favorites like Royal Mandalay and Daung Lann Gyi. The restaurant, located near the city’s Education College, is approaching its second year and continues to draw a crowd.
The owner, Ma Thin Zar, dreamed of having a simple café when she was a child but over the years developed a fondness for western food. After a culinary course in Mandalay, she and her partner launched Raymond’s Food Cottage, a cozy restaurant serving Asian dishes as well as pizza, pastas, salads and western mains.
From the outside, Raymond’s tries to be true to its name with wood paneling and cute shuttered windows. The downstairs dining area has picnic-like tables and chairs with enough space to sit 30 diners at a given time. A small open-air terrace upstairs is a good option for cooler winter nights. The décor features a mix of brick and wood accented with hand-written signs, some trendy tchotchkes and artsy posters. The overall feel is like being at a friend’s house. It sits on the border of feeling ‘too cute’ but the owners have thankfully avoided the urge to over-decorate.
The menu is divided in to a range of categories but each only featuring a few items. We ordered salad, pasta, Asian dish and – Raymond’s most popular item – pizza.
We expected the worst from the Niçoise salad but were pleasantly surprised to find a huge plate of fresh lettuce, slices of boiled eggs and tomatoes. Instead of anchovies, canned tuna was used and although there was one (or possibly two) sliced olives, a lot of baby corn seemed to have been used as a substitute.
The spaghetti Bolognese was a similar mix of East-meets-West with perfectly cooked noodles topped with a sauce that tasted like a cross between Shan khao sway and Bolognese.
Next up was the pizza. Often a disappointment in Mandalay, Raymond’s was surprisingly good. The thin crust had just a hint of sweetness that was offset by the onions and mushrooms. The ham was more akin to spam, but the overall combination was pleasant.
The Asian dish faired the best. The server recommended the ‘slice fish with herbs’, although struggled to explain what it was either in English or Burmese. It turned out to be a generous pile of firm white fish sautéed with kailan, a soy-based sauce and sesame seeds, served with steamed rice. The sauce was perfect – tangy and sweet with a touch of spice and sour – yet was cooked in a way that we could still taste the delicate flavors of the fish.
Our drinks – fruit juices and shakes – were served in mason jars. They were fresh and filling, almost a meal in and of themselves.
Raymond’s Food Cottage is not a ‘foodie’ address but it is a good option for a casual meal with friends. With rotating weekly and seasonal specials, the menu stays interesting and has enough variety to please everyone in the crowd. The espresso-based coffee drinks and high quality fruit juices offer great value for money at afternoon tea time, although the lack of alcohol on the menu may be a deterrent for evening diners. In the future, Ma Thin Zar has plans to offer take-away meals in eco-friendly takeaway packages – a great option to have when the rainy season calls for a lazy evening at home.
Hours: 10 AM – 10 PM daily
32nd Street between 69th and 70th
Phone: 09450999601, 09450999602