As a reviewer, I have to tell you that Ko Ta Ngar, the Rakhine fish restaurant on Min Nanda Road, Dawbon township, is busy, crowded, noisy and has insufficient parking space.
That’s that criticism out of the way. Now comes the reason for it: The place is constantly packed.
Everyone who likes inexpensive, spicy seafood and curries cooked the Rakhine way seems to congregate, with great enthusiasm, at Ko Ta Ngar (Mr Fisherman). Aficionados of the state’s trademark low-fat, low-sugar moketi soup or salad are particularly numerous, and here you’ll pay no more for them there than you would on the street – about K400.
The two-storey restaurant is clean and the service is efficient. Even though it’s only recently opened, many of the customers seem to be regulars, and many also seem to have brought their own alcohol, which Ko Ta Ngar does not sell.
The Rakhine region possesses some of Myanmar’s richest culinary traditions, and Ko Ta Ngar pays tribute to this coastal cuisine with a full range of fish and seafood, including moketi, prawns, crab, octopus, jellyfish, squid, cuttlefish, clams, ma-yut and seafood soup. Seafood comes grilled, fried, steamed or broiled as you choose, with prices ranging from K500 to K5500.
One of the most popular dishes is the signature Ko Ta Ngar seafood soup. Rakhine cuisine is known for its fiery, sour flavours featuring coriander, lemon grass, chillies and lemon juice, and Ko Ta Ngar’s iteration of this favourite dish is classically fragrant, with a complex blend of mouth-watering flavours. And at only K5000 it’s an absolute steal – the heated bowl is loaded with crab, prawn, octopus, molluscs, clams and fish. The broth is served separately so you can serve yourself, as well as rice, naturally.
And then there is my favourite: soft-shell crab curry (K4000), with its delicious blend of sour and hot flavours. Sides of gourd tempura, rice salad, moketi soup and salad will set you back less than K1000.
Curries are cooked either Rakhine-style or Thai-style, sour and lightly spiced.
They also have a steamed perch (K5000) which is sweet and soft, though a little cloying for my taste, and a spicy tiger prawn salad (K5000). The range of prawns is very wide – freshwater, tiger, mantis and lobster, which come broiled, fried, steamed or grilled.
To redeem yourself from these fiery indulgences, you could do a lot worse than the tasty cooked banana dessert – a sweet and refreshing dish to cool the tongue.
Ko Ta Ngar
14/15 Min Nanda Road, New Aye ward, Dawbon township
Restaurant Rating: 3/5 stars
Tax sticker: Y