Penthouse offers class and a view to kill

Google Maps show two Penthouse restaurants in Sanchaung. One pin is titled “The Penthouse Restaurant – Skybar – Lounge” on Bagaya Street, the other titled “The Penthouse” on U Wisara Road. Neither is the one you’re looking for. I learn this the hard way.

I learn this the hard way. The most accurate GPS location is on “The Penthouse” Facebook page, which marks a spot at the corner of People’s Park, where Dhammazedi Road and Bagayar Road meet.

You’ll know you found the place when you see its signature, silhouetted-skyline logo hanging over the sidewalk outside. The security guards can direct you the elevator, which you’ll ride to the top.

When the doors open, you’ll see white benches arranged in squares dotting a wide outdoor patio, ideal for the crowd of smokers that inevitably congregates on rooftops in Yangon. Half the restaurant is covered, with the bar and seating predominantly inside the confines of a glass roof. For a Tuesday night, the place is busy but not too busy. French and Myanmar and British and Americans, by population in that order, slurp cocktails and are chic. I am ashamed of my flip-flops.

At the edge and corner of the rooftop is an up-close-and-personal vista of Shwedagon, less than a kilometre away across the dark green landscape of People’s Park. More open than Vista Bar and more eloquent than Alfa Hotel’s Sapphire Lounge, Penthouse has the best rooftop bar view I’ve seen in Yangon. It’s going to be a hugely popular selfie backdrop when word spreads.

I deny the urge, however, and focus on the task at hand: ordering dinner. I’m still peeved about the incorrect Google Maps address, but I have a server to myself, and am essentially waited on hand and foot, which helps. The menu arrives immediately, and my server returns as soon as I raise my eyes, eager to take my order. As usual in Myanmar, it can be a little unnerving to be watched so closely, but I’m used to it.

After an extensive evaluation of the menu – which is extensive, at four pages of wines, a page of cocktails and beers, a page of “bar snacks” that included bruschetta (K9000), beef skewers (K12,000) and burgers (K15,000), and a page of steaks and entrees – I settle on a Manhattan (K7000), first. It takes a couple minutes for the barkeep to double-check the recipe card, but it arrives well-prepared, though perhaps made with Jack Daniels instead of a traditional rye. Small mistake, but notable.

At this point a Myanmar Pop Star arrives and sits with a group of friends, just next to the Penthouse owners, the French duo Raouf Baccouche and Amine Zlaoui – they also started The Lab wine and tapas bar. She, along with everyone else on the patio, looks flawless. The airy, “oonce, oonce, oonce” of French house music pulses from the speakers and my heart-rate elevates. The flip-flops feel like a flimsy, bad decision.

Food distracts me from the realisation that this place is too cool. I order a chicken picatta (K17,000) for what is probably my first time ever in Myanmar, as well as a chorizo tortilla (K7000) from the bar snacks menu, described as a “thick Spanish tortilla wrapped with potatoes and chorizo”.

If you’re here to mingle and don’t want to spend a fortune on food, it’s worth noting that a Tuborg or Yoma beer will only set you back K2500 – this is Carlsberg turf, it seems – and fries only K2000.

My picatta arrives, on a bed of lemon caper sauce with some sage tagliatelli (which I understand to mean “noodles”) on the side. It is light, subtle and filling, exactly what I hoped and much better than I expected.

The chorizo tortilla is more like a quiche than I thought it would be given the description, but, nevertheless, delicious and hearty. A good – if not very traditional –bar snack.

As dinner draws to a close, a floor manager comes over and engages me. She speaks good English, and seems curious about the guy in flip-flops taking pictures of his meal. She tells me Penthouse stays open late, until 2am or 3am depending on the crowd, and that it’s been busy since they opened a few weeks ago.

The check arrives, and I note there is no tax sticker on the receipt. Then I walk toward the lift, a route which takes me right past a certain Myanmar Pop Star. Waiting for it to arrive, I look around one last time: green plants encircle white benches, and did she just catch my eye?

I look down, at my flip-flops, and catch the elevator down to Yangon’s soggy streets.

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