T he sprightly new Gekkō restaurant in the historic and beautifully refur-bished Sofaer & Co. building is lo-cated on Merchant St. in downtown Yangon. Built in 1906, the building was part of the empire of Isaac and Meyar Sofaer and both brothers were Baghdad-born, Rangoon-edu-cated and belonging to the Jewish commu-nity here.
As well as owning many commercial prop-erties in Rangoon, Isaac was a successful trader in his own right with interests in wines & spirits amongst others. The Sofaer & Co. building was at the epicenter of the city in the early 1900s, once housing a Reuters telegram office and shops selling a wide va-riety of international products from German beer to Scotch, Egyptian cigars and English sweets.
The ceramic floor tiles were shipped from Manchester and the steel beams that sup-port the ceiling are from the Lanarkshire Steel Company in Scotland. I note this, not because of my huge sleuthing on the build-ing but because of their rather slick website which is simple and to the point. It’s also nice to see historic buildings being restored and given new life when the wrecking ball is more the norm.
On the ground floor the interior looks sur-Gekkō manages to merge the old with the very new prisingly modern and yet in keeping with the style of the building with a mixture of high and low tables and bar stools. Upstairs is more speakeasy and cosy with a slight prohi-bition feel to it. The space gave me the feel-ing of a Manhattan restaurant/lounge and maybe that’s because the Myanmar archi-tect who worked on this refurbishment has worked in the US.
The drinks menu priced in dollars, kicks off with a variety of Japanese inspired cocktails ($ 7-9) courtesy of Singapore’s famously dis-creet 28 Hong Kong St. establishment – I went for the Japanese Cocktail, a refreshing concoction of VSOP brandy, artisanal orgeat, fresh lime and bitters and my partner tried the Yukata Cocktail; dry gin, green char-treuse, bianco vermouth, yuza, fresh apple and lime bitters. Both were inspired and the cocktail list alone is worth exploring, and in keeping with that Manhattan touch, no tired old concoctions here!
There’s also a large selection of sake’s gath-ered from small breweries across Japan. Many are unpasteurized and ranging from a $5 glass of Jyozen Karatanba to a bottle of Tajime Chiusen Junmai Gingo at $151. There’s also a good selection of wines, beers and shochu.
The menu like the name of the restaurant is Japanese inspired, and loosely based on a Yakitori menu and also serves Ramen and pizzas, but manages to be simple and straightforward. Think Japanese Tapas, for Small Plates ($5-6) we choose, Edamame, Korean Fried Chicken and Pork Gyoza all scrumptious but the Gyoza was simply the best I’ve had since last time I was in Japan, really succulent and perfect dumpling wrap. I’ve already been back for more.
There’s a ‘Yakitori nihon – 2 STIX’ section and from that we choose sticks of Chicken and Scallion, Shan Potatoes with wasabi kewpie, Stuffed Peppers with miso kewpie, again all sensational and I liked the way sauce and dips accompanied each dish. I should add there were four of us. For Medi-um plates ($8-12) we choose Crispy Kimchi Roll and Pork Okonomiyaki, a Japanese chil-dren’s favourite and the Japanese version of the pizza, it was delicious if a little under-done in the centre, the only quibble or a se-ries of perfect dishes.
Gekkō has the best of the new and old but what’s refreshing as well as its drinks and cocktails is the food and its presentation, it’s a very welcome addition to the Yangon bar and restaurant scene, the service was kindly and sweet and it’s going to be one busy eat-ery if it sticks to its winning formula.
535 Merchant Street, Kyautada Township, 4th Quarter, Yangon.