As usual, my first night in Mandalay was spent dining at Aye Myit Tar Restaurant on 81st Street. This time, however, there was one thing missing: Nyein Htun, one of the waiters whom I’ve known for about five years. When Ko Ko Oo, one of the other waiters, told me about Nyein Htun’s absence, at first I assumed that he’d gone back to his home village near Monywa, but instead I was told that he was now across town, working at another restaurant.
Actually, this other establishment hadn’t yet opened yet when I first arrived in Mandalay. But three days later they held a grand opening brunch and Ko Ko Oo gave me an invitation to attend. This restaurant, Aung Noodles, specializes in, well, noodles, or kyauk swe as they are know in these parts. The restaurant is located at the corner of 11th Street and 76th Street, near the northwest corner of the moat that surrounds the old Grand Palace. It’s a bit off the beaten tourist track, or at least far from my hotel and usual haunts, but the food was so good that I found it worth the drive, or in my case, the long bicycle ride.
On the morning of the grand opening I met Ko Ko Oo at Aye Myit Tar and we took motorcycle taxis to the new noodle joint. I don’t think they told Nyein Htun I was coming, because he looked very surprised to see me. I was, as expected, the only Westerner in attendance. At this restaurant, Nyein Htun is not waiting tables, but training to be a cook. Judging from the excellent quality of the noodles that he dished up, he’s learned well. The noodles were flavorful without being overly greasy, and augmented by lots of fresh vegetables and juicy chunks of chicken.
Aung Noodles is run by a relative of the woman who owns Aye Myit Tar, so the grand opening was a big family affair with many of the employees from Aye Myit Tar in attendance, most of them bringing gifts for the new owner. Even though it was mid-morning, not yet ten o’clock, Nyein Htun served me a cold Myanmar Beer with my heaping bowl of noodles. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I don’t drink during the day (and indeed I don’t; limiting my beer intake to the nighttime hours), so I dutifully sucked down the brew with a smile while slurping my noodles. And I have to say, it wasn’t a bad combination!
I went back again about ten days later, after I’d returned from my trip to Shan State, and had another satisfying bowl of noodles, Nyein Htun waiting on me with his usual diligence. I hope this place does well. It looks like nothing fancy from the outside, but I can honestly say that serve some very tasty noodles dishes.