Sanon, launched by Myanmar Youth Development Institute with the help of FRIENDS International, is part of the successful TREE (Training Restaurants for Employment and Entrepreneurship) Alliance restaurant group. Some of you may already be familiar with the work they have done/are in the process of doing in destinations such Phnom Penh, Luang Prabang and Siem Reap.
As per Tree Alliance’s website, “TREE is a global alliance of training restaurants offering its partners in the NGO world access to established high quality standards of practice in the field of social enterprise and extensive support in implementing those. TREE restaurants are based upon a highly successful model of social business which provides not only positive beneficiary impact but also customer satisfaction and enhanced sustainability for the organisation. All profits from TREE restaurants are invested in the students who train there and the social programs which support them on their journey to becoming a skilled, productive and happy young person with a more secure future.”
Many of their students are former street youth, or come from other marginalized and at-risk groups. They are young people who may have felt they would never have the opportunity to do well in life. TREE helps to reach out to them both on the streets and in their communities to ensure they can have that opportunity.
On a recent inspection trip to Bagan, Tour Mandalay had the pleasure of eating at Sanon restaurant twice (that was never the intention, but the food was so good that we simply couldn’t resist). Located in a recently renovated former beer station, Sanon boasts a pleasant semi-outdoor setting for diners to sit and there’s even a small air-conditioned area for those looking to escape the ancient capital’s often scorching heat. Those that choose to sit outside will be treated to a fan cooled, semi-covered open air space, which opens out onto a partly manicured garden. At the time of inspection this was still in the early stages of growing, but even so, it made for an extremely welcoming outdoor space.
After just over five hours of touring Tour Mandalay had worked up quite the appetite and it is impossible to express how delighted we were to see Sanon’s two-page menu grace our table. Depending on your preference, it is conveniently divided into four distinct food sections (five if you include the extras); ‘For the veggie lover’, ‘For the fish and sea food lover’, ‘For the meat lover’ and ‘For the sweet tooth’. For ‘truly traditional’ Myanmar cuisine, a pagoda icon can be found to the left hand side and for spicy options, a bowl of fire. The back page also contains an impressive selection of hot drinks, juices, smoothies, beers and cocktails – unfortunately we did not get the chance to sample the latter, which was a real shame seeing as the frozen pineapple chilli margarita sounded divine. To avoid confusion you are requested to order by number, but seeing as the menu does not consist of 20 plus pages (like some restaurants we know), we think this process should be fairly straight forward. For Tour Mandalay, a smaller menu also helps to further ensure quality and freshness, which is not something you would usually associate with a desert-like region such as Bagan.
Another thing we particularly liked was the fact the menu offered plenty of variety. Although the majority of the dishes are Burmese in-style, or at least inspired, you will also find a small selection of western favourites including beer battered fish & chips, minted greek salad and roasted cherry tomato/roselle leaf cashew nut pesto pasta. We appreciate that some people looking to keep it 100% authentic might turn their noses up at the thought of ordering something like the above, but we often find that sticking to local food throughout can sometimes take its toll. This easy to pallet selection also makes Sanon a great option for families.
Please be sure to check out the gallery below to get a better idea of what is on offer. As you will see, there is literally something for everyone. Just in case you were wondering, Tour Mandalay’s favourite was the chicken burger with papaya pickles, harissa mayonnaise and sweet potato fries.
To conclude, Sanon is a social enterprise well worth supporting. Not only does a meal here go towards a great cause, but you will also get the chance to try out what is arguably the best menu in Bagan. Being located in Nyaung U, some might consider it to be a bit out of the way, but it is only a 10-15 minute drive from Old Bagan (if that!) and a stop here also combines well with a trip to MBoutique before, or shortly after. Price wise, you will be looking at MMK6000-7000 per main, which equates to USD5-6 using today’s exchange rate (28/07/2016) – for the quality, presentation and portion size, Tour Mandalay think this represents great value.
Conveniently, Sanon is open seven days a week from 11am until 10am. At present, the restaurant is still relatively unknown but we suspect that it will become an extremely popular option in the months to come. With this in mind, we would recommend calling ahead to make a reservation. Sanon’s reservation team can be contacted by calling +95 9451951950 or +95 9785989078. Alternatively, you may wish to visit their website or Facebook page by clicking on one of the following URLs.
Those keen to take a look at the menu can download the PDF version by clicking here.