Well-intentioned social enterprise serving decent but expensive food by Nyaung U, near Bagan.
We really wanted to love Sanon. A social enterprise dedicated to training disadvantaged youth to gain skills and work opportunities in the catering industry, it ticks a lot of boxes. Set in a lush green, open-air space, with keen and attentive staff and a plush menu, Sanon is set to take its place in all the Myanmar guidebooks. It already has nothing but rave reviews online
Only problem, the food was slightly underwhelming. Dishes felt overly refined, at the expense of punchier, earthier flavours.
A quick caveat before we dive into the details:
While living in Myanmar we’ve by and large preferred eating Myanmar (and all the different ethnic varieties), or at least Asian, cuisine over Western food. That’s for numerous reasons, such as making the most of the opportunity to sample the best (and worst) of Myanmar food. But also, we’re yet to have a Western meal in Myanmar that was better than an Asian option, or that did the dish justice compared to options back home.
So while there were a number of appetising sounding European dishes on the Sanon menu, some with top reviews online, we skipped over them for more local dishes. It’s entirely possible that those we skipped are the true stars of the menu. If so, our bad luck.
On to the dishes we did eat.
First was a hefty serving of battered soft shell crab with papaya salad. Probably the best dish of the night, with the heat of the zingy papaya salad serving as an ideal pairing to the deep fried goodness of the crab.
The glass noodle salad with fish cake was another solid offering. Here, the kitchen’s efforts to elevate the dish from its more humble noodle salad origins paid off, with fine pieces of fish cake and fresh tender herbs and vegetables.
Fish cake and glass noodle salad – where refinement paid off
But less exciting were the other dishes, like the tomato salad and Shan noodles. As upscale versions of humble dishes, they couldn’t quite compete with the intensity of the street-side versions. Meanwhile, what we assumed would be a plate of garlic-laden stir-fried watercress came battered and deep fried in fritter-form. Texturally interesting, but not quite what we were hoping for.
Don’t get us wrong, Sanon was fine. A pleasant venue and a worthwhile cause. But prices were double what we paid in other locations, and for slightly less flavourful fare. Not quite worth the trade-off for us.
Price: Around 45,000 for 5 people
Must orders: Glass noodle salad
Good for: Bagan tourists wanting a more upmarket experience, as well as European options.
Address: Pyu Saw Hti Street, Next to Thante Hotel, Bagan (google maps)