Set in a quiet and lush part of Yangon, nestled between the embassies and grand residences of Taw Win Road, The Marina strikes a calm and refreshing note from the very outset. It shares its name with a famous beach on the southwest coast of India in the city of Chennai.
In the main dining area, the furniture and interior decorations are modern and clean, if somewhat lacking in character and soul. Fortunately, the ‘fish market’ and ‘live tandoori kitchen’ add excitement to the dining experience. The fish market has a selection of freshwater, seawater and lakewater fish on ice for the customer to peruse and select from. This is said to be the first of its kind in Yangon.
In the live tandoori kitchen the chefs work behind the glass screen, where the three large tandoor ovens sit.
The restaurant is no intimate affair, seating 168 in the whole restaurant. There are four private rooms which seat eight to ten diners each. There is a large party hall which can seat up to 40 for a buffet-style dinner, which opens onto a private terrace area. The nicest place to sit appears to be the semi-outdoor, less formal ‘café-bar’ section which has comfortable couches and looks out onto the verdant garden.
The menu is expansive and caters for all diets and tastes. There are plenty of vegetarian options including palak paneer and jeera aloo (and a section of ‘pan-Asian cuisine’ to cater for the guests who may prefer a Chinese or Thai dish). Tom yum soup and steamed whole fish are available.
We stick with the Indian menu and appreciate the wide expanse of regional flavours – the jhinga curry is a dish typically found along the western coast, the mutton kheema cooked Hyderabadi style represents the south, and the Lahori chicken brings flavours from the northwest frontier.
For starters we try the crispy corn in golden baskets – eight delicate and well-presented portions of crispy fried sweetcorn with carefully balanced seasoning to trigger an explosion of flavour in your mouth. The meat in the tandoori chicken is cooked to a wonderful tenderness and is not served on the bone. The barbequed prawns are light and refreshing and are marinated in burnt garlic and fresh yoghurt before being cooked.
For mains, we opted for the chicken biryani. The rice was wonderfully flavourful and light, and the dish contained generous helpings of meat. Serving it with a gently salted natural yoghurt sauce makes for a well-balanced dish. The star of the show, however, was yet to come: the chicken tikka masala looks ordinary at first glance, but once you scoop it up with some crispy garlic naan and take a bite, you can tell it is anything but. The meat is seasoned and cooked to tender perfection before being added to a masala sauce, which is packed with an extraordinary depth of flavour. I will be ordering this again.
At this stage, though already feeling very full, we were convinced to try some Indian desserts. The gulab jamun is a sweet milk solid-based traditional sweet. Rasmalai is less sweet and served cold, making it rather refreshing but, alas, Indian sweets are just not for me.
All in all, The Marina offers an excellent selection of fine dishes from all over India, and is a welcome addition to Yangon’s Indian dining scene.
Chicken tikka masala (8750Ks); crispy corn in golden basket (4500Ks); sweet lassi (2000Ks)
Open: Daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner; snack menu available at café-bar in between.
Drinks: Limited wine menu (K15,000-60,000 per bottle), Heineken on draft, cocktails (K3500-4000), Chai (K2000)