Last August, Yangon’s first dedicated jazz bar opened its doors with a bash of the symbol and a roar of the saxophone. Located on lower Bo Myat Tun Street, this music bar is one of a few in the city that carries a theme that really works. It’s a pleasingly unpretentious and comfortable place where customers genuinely want to hang out for a few hours and eating, drinking and talking with friends.
After doors open at 5pm, a slow trickle of customers comes through the doors into the dimly lit, low-ceiling bar with blues classics oozing from the speakers and giant portraits of music greats hanging on the walls. Amy Winehouse peers down her nose at me as I peruse the cocktail menu and order a Coco Loco from the signature cocktails section.
This cocktail of rum and Malibu with passion fruit and coconut syrup is balanced nicely with fresh lime juice and served in young coconut.
The bar feels intimate, though as manager Su Wai Lin tells me, it actually seats 80 to 100 people with the upstairs tables offering more private tables. In fact, at the clock ticks closer to 8pm on a Friday evening, all corners of the bar are filling up and the band members are tuning their instruments while Louis Armstrong and U Win Oo smile down on the crowd that has gathered.
The beer menu has Myanmar Premium and Heineken draft (K1,900-3,900) a wide selection of bottles including Hoegaarden and Hogaarden Rose (K3,500) and full range of craft beers from Burbrit Brewery (K3,900-6,500). An extensive list of classic cocktails (K3,900-4,500) is not too exciting but the signature cocktails (K6,500) are definitely worth a taste. A very fairly priced wine menu (K18,000-27,000) as well as a range of spirit bottles means every taste is catered for.
Sitting comfortably with a delicious Coco Loco in hand as the band strikes up with a rendition of Smooth Operator, the bar has already struck the right chord. The female vocalist swings her hips and sings smoothly and everything feels very genuine jazz – right down to the green lampshades and the red velvet curtains decorating the stage. But when the food arrives at your table, you will realise this experience is about to step up a notch.
This is not another bar trying to offer special or unusual food and failing like in so many other cases in Yangon – this is a truly delicious international menu with small selections of our favourite flavours and culinary styles from across the world. Mexico, the Lebanon, Portugal and Thailand all have a presence in the menu and the flavours really hit all the right notes. I’m told a menu of pizzas is in the works too.
Sous Chef Thiha Lwin says his time working as a chef in Dubai had a huge influence over his cooking style. He says he learned to get maximum flavour in his dishes through the process of marinating and the careful selection of high quality ingredients.
The batata harra (K2,900) is a Lebanese dish of slightly spiced potato chunks seasoned to have a distinctly Middle Eastern fragrance and a comforting buttery finish. Thiha Lwin’s own creation of black sticky rice risotto (K5,900) – counter to what you may assume – is really delicious. The unusual combination of the base elements of this dish is brave but it works very well as a smooth and lightly cheesy seafood dish. Next we try the pan-grilled pork neck (K4,900) which is served with chili sauce and has a good subtle sweetness in its glazing. My favourite is the beef kofta (K4,900) served with sundried tomato rice. The meat is soft, juicy and flavourful and accompanied by an excellently smoky eggplant salad.
Su Wai tells me that the owner of the bar not only came up with the concept, design and decoration of the bar himself but also arranges the groups of musicians and provides top-class instruments for them to play , including an electric baby piano, a double bass and a Gibson guitar.
With a good location and the right prices, Jazz in Time was already ahead of the game with its unique concept, great live music and delicious cocktails, but to throw an excellent menu into the mix makes it one of the best bars in Yangon.
Jazz in Time is open weekdays from 5pm to 12am and to 1am on weekends. Live bands play Thursday to Sunday from 8pm and the bar has recently designated Monday and Tuesday nights for karaoke. The happy hour, which runs from 5pm to 7pm every day, offers 50% off cocktails and draft beer.