Parami Pizza Dishes up a Fresh Slice in Bahan

By The Irrawaddy 27 April 2015

RANGOON — For more than two years, the folks behind the hospitality consortium 57Below have set a seemingly impossible standard for restaurant bars in Burma’s largest city. In the eastern blocks of downtown, Union and Gekko have been elevated to the status of institutions, with their tasteful renovations of heritage buildings and ever-evolving menus drawing even Rangoon’s pre-reform expat cohorts away in droves from the stuffier happy hour atmosphere of the hotel bars.

Parami Pizza, the group’s third venture, was always a riskier proposition. Of all western cuisine, pizza is probably still the only one to have risen in quality from a surfeit of competitors, and notwithstanding the embassy and UN sets living and working north of Hledan, the Mayangone location’s client base was always going to be limited by the 6pm traffic on Pyay Road.

Against expectations, Parami has made such a meal of it that last weekend saw the opening of a second location, smack in the middle of what might affectionately be called the Warsaw end of Bahan’s Shwegonedaing Road. The new pizzeria is straight out of the 57Below playbook, with marble-top tables and leather seating set against maroon feature walls, jars of fermenting olives sitting on the kitchen counter, a wine list to weep over and the angry howls of rival restaurateurs piercing the still night air from a distance.

Hosting a gala tasting on Thursday and Friday nights—another 57Below standard for the benefit of anyone with enough heft in the expat pecking order to inveigle an invite—Chef de Cuisine Francesco Costa and his charges showcased a range of indulgent fare before the official start of trade. Eschewing pizza for stuffed artichoke hearts and panna cotta, Costa’s team demonstrated its remarkable versatility, without succumbing to the standard temptation of dreaming up a menu as big as a phone book to match their repertoire.

Such is the reputation of 57Below, to pay tribute to the new location is an exercise in redundancy: it rises to the same standards, at the same reasonable cost, with the same flawlessly attentive service as their other ventures. Its suite of Italian entrees is the most satisfying in the city—save perhaps Inya Lake’s time-honored L’Opera—and no-one without a debilitating lactose intolerance could conceivably leave the premises unsated. That a few dishes from last weekend’s showcase have regrettably not found their way onto the menu is a shame, but it is hard to imagine that 57Below’s relentless gentrification machine will allow an unrealized idea to lie dormant for long.

Parami 2 is located on the ground floor of Shwe Gone Plaza, across the road from The Lab.