Imperial Garden review – adequate dim sum in Yangon

Imperial Garden review – adequate dim sum in Yangon

Imperial Garden serves up decent – if not brilliant – dim sum (Cantonese brunch dishes of dumplings, steamed buns and more…) in Myanmar Plaza, Yangon.

Authentic dim sum can be an overwhelming experience to the uninitiated. Here’s the low-down:

  1. It’s composed of a seemingly infinite number of small tapas-size dishes, mostly steamed in teeming stacks of bamboo steamers.
  2. Dishes include black bean pork spare ribs, siu mai – pork and shrimp dumplings, barbecue pork buns – all in all, a lot of pork.
  3. Non-pork dishes include chicken’s feet, ha gao – shrimp dumplings, egg tarts and sweet steamed cake.
  4. Traditionally served up on pushcart by women screaming out the name of the dish as you try to flag her down before the last bamboo steamer is taken. Meanwhile you’d typically be sitting at a giant round table, next to strangers, surrounded by other strangers hovering over you as they wait for you to finish your meal to take your spot.
  5. And all for breakfast.

Imperial Garden doesn’t quite give the same atmosphere of brilliant chaos. Instead, you’ll find yourself in a upscale restaurant on the top floor of the equally upscale Myanmar Plaza, casually eating in normal sized tables, ordering off a normal looking menu.

Plus side is you can order dim sum any time of the day, well beyond breakfast.

On the down side, it’s far from the best dim sum you will have or should have in your life time.

Shrimp dumplings with a translucent wrapper – ha gao – were the standout, with excellent bite to the substantial shrimp filling. Siu mai – pork and shrimp dumplings came second, as while the filling was slightly on the bland side, they still proved to be tasty bite sized treats.

Shrimp dumplings at Imperial Garden
Wonderfully portly shrimp dumplings

Turnip cake – lo bac gou – was a bit stodgy, with not nearly enough substance to the filling (like Chinese sausage or dried scallops) and needed more panfrying to create the delightfully crispy coating that a good turnip cake is renowned for.

Turnip cake at Imperial Garden
Thick turnip cake, light on fillings

But the worst of all were the pork spare ribs in black bean sauce – our personal favourite dim sum dish. Flabby and unsubstantial portions of meat were coated in a cakey coating that was neither necessary or appreciated. Black beans were few and far between, imparting little umami flavour to the pork. Complete let down.

Pork spare ribs at Imperial Garden
Pork spare ribs – 20% meat, 30% fat, 50% bone

And – given that we were in the midst of reviewing the best of xiao long bao in Yangon, we had to sample them at Imperial Garden. Our impressions are more fully elaborated in our round up review, but needless to say they were the worst amongst the three places we visited. But still they’re pretty enjoyable to eat, given that xiao long bao are the king of dumplings.

We ended the meal with a mango pudding, a classic Cantonese dessert that is part jello part set pudding. It lacked the fresh flavour of a luscious sweet mango and was texturally slightly grainy. But we still ate all of the quaintly heart shaped pud.

Mango pudding at Imperial Gardeb
Mango pudding – we didn’t *heart* it

All in all, we’d probably still go back to Imperial Garden for a dim sum fix despite its shortcomings, as we’ve yet to find anywhere better in Yangon. And given the vast numbers of fellow Chinese patrons at Imperial Garden, it seems many would agree.


Imperial Garden Restaurant

Price: Around 8,000 MMK per person

Must orders: Shrimp dumplings (ha gao)

Good for: People who really want to eat dim sum, or any kind of Chinese food in a nice setting in between shopping sprees.

Address: 3rd floor, Myanmar Plaza, Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Yangon


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