Vestige Café offers traditional Myanmar food with an exciting modern twist in a quiet corner of Junction City with an unexpected bonus of spectacular views.Vestige started out as a brand of souvenirs sporting traditional Myanmar designs on contemporary goods. Their knapsacks and notebooks featured images of chinthe and Burmese fonts. They are sold today at outlets in Yangon, Naypyidaw, Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin, Bagan and Inle Lake. After their success in their first restaurant outlet at Myanmar Plaza, Vestige Café opened a second branch at Junction City on the corner of Shwedagon Pagoda Road and Bogyoke Aung San Street in May of this year.
The modern but comfortable interiors feature striking cooking-pot wall features. "Around the country, there are not many places that are bringing Burmese food to the next level or upgrading the quality so that’s what we’re trying to do. We keep the food traditional but upgrade the ingredients, presentation and setting to an international level,” explained Henry Hla Myint Htwe, Business Development Manager of the Vestige group who was born and raised here in Yangon. Henry moved abroad as a youth for experience in hospitality in the Middle East and Malaysia before returning to his native city and the booming restaurant scene here.
One of the best things about the restaurant is the outdoor seating area. Laid-back seating offers grand views down onto Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Bogyoke Market, Shwedagon Pagoda in the distance and lots of Yangon greenery that we sometimes forget we have here. The menu catches everyone’s attention- not just for the food it features but also for its layout and design. Prices are fair considering the exclusivity of the location. Kachin-style chicken costs 5,500 Ks, whole baked seabass is 4,500 Ks and the seafood spaghetti costs 4,200 Ks. The drinks menu is loyal to traditional beverages like teashop-style tea (800 Ks), tamarind juice (1,200 Ks) and most excitingly Kachin ‘ale’ (500 Ks). The Kachin ‘ale’ is a traditional alcohol of fermented rice wine brewed typically in rural areas. Myanmar beer on tap is available. We order prawn paste spaghetti (4,800 Ks) – Henry’s favourite dish – and also his highly recommended pone yay gyi rice (5,000 Ks) as well as shredded dried mutton rice (5,500 Ks). Dried mutton is a snack typically eaten while drinking beer and this modern take on it – as a full meal and with good presentation – is daring and impressive. I enjoyed the reduced oil levels. The crispy meat, hearty and not an overpowering taste, was matched very well with subtly flavoured rice.
“We reduce the oil content in our menu items and we don’t use MSG. And this is challenging because Myanmar people are used to MSG and may complain about a change in flavours,” said Henry.Nowadays, Myanmar people are becoming ever more health conscious and waking up to the risks of eating unhygienic or low-quality food. In answer to this, Vestige Café brings dishes that are considered common food but which the public hold so dearly, into a clean and comfortable environment paying attention to the quality of ingredients - and it is going down very well. “We are planning to open our third food outlet in the 8 Mile area which will have the same food menu but will be open 24-hours.” Their in-house designer takes care of souvenir designs as well as interior design and decoration. Ma Phyu Phyu Htet Win who obtained her Master of Interior Design at Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan said that she was inspired by traditional Myanmar designs and uses this in combination with contemporary, minimal interior architecture. The restaurant is modern and chic but stays true to the Burmese heritage styles that Vestige uses throughout its brand design. “The open space with no doors also serves as a welcome into the restaurant, despite the high back chairs and concrete counters which emphasise the strong and edgy vibe,” said Ma Phyu Phyu Htet Win.“What I can confidently tell you is this menu and this concept is our own authentic style. We want to be different.”