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Monday, 04 April 2016 07:05

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Kandawgyi Palace Hotel has long been ranked as one of the best hotels in one of the best locations in Yangon. The hotel sits (no surprise) on the bank of Kandawgyi Lake, and commands an impressive view of Shwedagon Pagoda to the east and the resplendent Karaweik Barge to the west. Stepping out of my taxi in the midday heat, my eye was immediately drawn to the hotel's design; attractively understated, combining distinctive Burmese teak roofing and decoration with modern western architecture.

The expectation when visiting such an institution is, of course, the food that will match up to the outstanding service and setting. The Kandawgyi Palace boasts four restaurants spanning a world of cuisines from Japanese (Otake) to Chinese a-la-carte (Taste Paradise) to informal Western and pan-Asian (Thiri cafe). All of these restaurants have been very favourably received by Yangonites and hotel residents alike.

Rachel's sits comfortably alongside these offerings, presenting fine-dining fusion of Western and Myanmar dishes. Having heard nothing but good reviews from a few sources since its recent opening, I decided to venture down and try it for myself. Until recently Rachel's operated as a fine French restaurant under the name 'Agnes', but the market for French cuisine in Yangon is currently a little crowded between the likes of L'Planteur, Le Petit Comptoir and L'Alchemiste. With this in mind, moving to the moniker 'Rachel's' and a broader Western/Myanmar menu seems a sensible choice. There are still pleasing nods to its French heritage in the new menu, however.

Rachel's is set back a little from the main building (it is best to inquire where the restaurant is rather than try and find it yourself), to allow a better view of the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda from the terrace. The interior of Rachel's is truly remarkable. It combines Art Deco design with modern interpretations of traditional art from across Myanmar. These splashes of colour are offset by the stunning geometric stone floor tiles, which give it a real Parisian edge. The terrace public terrace area is well presented with capacity for 30 or so diners to sit and enjoy the stunning lakeside vista. The restaurant also contains two elegant private dining rooms that have attached private terraces for special occasions. As well as formal dining chairs and tables there are comfortable sofas for coffee or informal drinks; the restaurant could easily be adapted to cater for a variety of occasions.

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Rachel's serves a well considered fine dining menu for fairly reasonable international prices. A starter will cost between 6 and 16 dollars, a main between 6 and 27, and a dessert between 6 and 9 dollars. The price differences between dishes seem a little erratic; this is undoubtedly due to the cost of sourcing certain ingredients in Myanmar and abroad. The starter of blue cheese and fresh plum salad sounds particularly unusual and tantalising while the grilled Ngapali Bay baby lobster caught my eye as a main. Despite the focus on Western dishes, there are tantalising Burmese dishes on offer – Mont Lin Mayar, Shwe Taung noodles and Burmese lentil soup all sounded delicious. The desserts vary from day-to-day and are brought out for you to choose from on a large platter, adding a pleasantly personal touch to your dining experience. In terms of drinks Rachel's claims to have one of the best wine cellars in Yangon; having looked around it, I can wholeheartedly agree. They also serve a very decent selection of cocktails.

I hadn't actually intended to eat anything too substantial at Rachel's on the trip, but when I arrived my stomach had other ideas. I sat down with a strong black coffee and 'Angel hair' spaghetti carbonara and was treated to a complimentary pre-starter of chicken roulade and bread with oil and parmesan. The coffee was strong, the well-presented carbonara made memorable by the welcome addition of mustard seeds, and the chicken roulade simple yet delicious. The bread was a little sweet for my tastes – other than that my only regret was not opting for dessert!

I have no doubts that with its combination of a beautiful interior, stunning views, friendly staff and broad menu, Rachel's will prove extremely successful. The re-brand and new menu speak of management with their finger on the pulse of Yangon. The food is elegant and understated: of a high enough standard to make a trip to Rachel's a special occasion, but with prices reasonable enough that it will do for a fine business lunch. I left Rachel's feeling satisfied, welcomed and curious for another visit; there is a Ngapali Bay lobster with my name on it.

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  • Liberty Beauharnois
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    Wednesday, 23 October 2019 23:32 posted by Liberty Beauharnois
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