RANGOON — If you’re going to go on a date at the Blind Tiger, bring someone you like. The cocktails are spicy enough that a single splash on someone’s face will burn to high heaven. Skip past the Spiked Tiger on the menu and ask the Thai mixologist, Addy, to whip you up a ‘Burma Strawberry.’ Be sure to nod your head and wai him in anticipatory gratitude. At first, this strawberry and chili infused vodka cocktail is sweet and refreshing. It then turns punishing, with a kick strong enough to surprise but that’s just shy of overdone. Not for the faint of heart—or stomach—it ranks alongside Gekko’s ‘Horse’s Neck’ for best cocktail in Rangoon. It’s a great start to a night. After all, a speakeasy should have good drinks. Owner Sophie Barry was a camerawoman for most of her life and owned the Mexican-themed ‘La Cantina’ in Kabul from 2009 till 2011. She settled in Rangoon to be close to her sister, and quickly realized that the Yaw Min Gyi neighborhood desperately needed a good bar. When she stumbled into the old cyber café that used to sit on the ground floor of United Condo, Sophie embraced the concept of a speakeasy and set out to fully soundproof the walls. After arriving at the nondescript building that sits on the corner of Nawaday and Alain Pyar Road, visitors have to ‘follow the paws’ on the graffiti-filled walls of the ground floor and navigate a couple tricky hallways to then knock on the heavy wooden door marked only by the image of a tiger smoking a cigarette. The eyes of one of the many Burmese bartenders—many of whom previously worked in Dubai—will peep through the eyehole before welcoming guests inside. The venue itself is a mixture of dark and luxurious, with sparkly bead curtains and provocative art contrasting nicely with the Bordeaux walls and heavy wooden furniture. [irrawaddy_gallery] All in all, it’s easy to settle in for the night and allow the music and the hours to pass you by, only to be jolted back to reality by the sudden realization that the bathroom is talking to you, in which case, don’t worry: It’s not the alcohol, but the speakers installed to play a looped recording about the history of speakeasies while patrons, well, take care of business. Open till 10:30pm, the kitchen at The Blind Tiger caters to all degrees of hunger, from the ‘I’ll just have a few dainty garlic shrimps with my ginger mojito’ to the ‘I’m desperate; bring me a burger large enough to feed a small family, please.’ The half-burger, an upcoming addition to the menu, is still quite a mouthful, and is served in a brioche bun accompanied by a bounty of caramelized onions, bacon, and your choice of cheese (camembert, blue cheese, cheddar) and sauces, of which there are too many to choose from. It hits all the right notes and definitely stands out among other Rangoon burger offerings, though it could have been juicier. Other highlights on the menu include the meatballs—rich and flavorful—and the crab cakes. Don’t leave without trying the crab cakes, which are absolutely sublime, though the portion size is a little too European. Consider yourself forewarned: with its insulated soundproofed walls that block out not only noise, but also traffic, cell reception, heat and the changing skies, The Blind Tiger lends itself to arriving early, staying for dinner, loosing track of time, and stumbling back to greet a new dawn with a fuller belly and a lighter wallet, the soul all the merrier for it.
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