French Family Food in a Garden Setting

By Dani Patteran 27 September 2014

Tucked away in the leafy grounds of the French cultural institute ‘Institute Français de Birmanie’ in Rangoon, a new restaurant, Rendez-vous, has just opened.

As befits the Gallic setting, the fare is mostly French, with some Italian and Asian inspired dishes. Only open two weeks, the place comes with sparkling credentials—Rendez-Vous is owned by the people behind popular French bakery La Tartine, and run by the French and Italian cooks previously at restaurant Les Tontons.

Cooks Sebastien Rabeux and Alfio Marletta closed Les Tontons to move their establishment to the Institute Français, offering similar food but in a more relaxed and accessible setting.

The menu is simple selection of snacks, salads and larger meat courses, alongside desserts and the French crêpe. At 6,000 kyat for a filet steak with potatoes, 4,000 kyat for chicken skewers and 1,000 kyat for a generous helping of yoghurt and fresh fruit, it is far more reasonably priced than many of the other French competitors in town.

“It’s family food,” said Rabeux, talking about the inspiration behind his menu. “Nothing complex. Something nice, with good ingredients: simple, fresh.”

For lunch The Irrawaddy sampled a hearty parmigiana—a type of vegetarian lasagne, stuffed with layers of aubergine, tomatoes and egg, and a melted cheese crust. Stodgy and moreish, it is a good choice for those after something filling, though it could have done with some salad to freshen the dish.

The smoked herring was a pleasant surprise, as smoked fish is something of a rarity in Burma (Rendez-Vous import their herring from France)—and was served well, with crisp garnish of carrots and potatoes with parsley. The sweet crêpes were tasty, and exactly as one would expect in France.

The dinner menu features a similar array of dishes, including Rabeux and Marletta’s homemade sausages, lasagne and filet mignon with mustard sauce.

However, rather than stick to a few staple dishes, Rendez-Vous are electing to change starters and mains regularly, and will host a variety of different themed events throughout the week.

Carried over from Les Tontons, the popular Thursday evening all-you-can-eat barbeque is a repeat fixture, serving a wide selection of grilled meats and vegetables as well as a free flow of wine and beer.

There are also ad hoc music evenings—next Wednesday Rendez-Vous will host a live jazz band, accompanied by the traditional French dish ‘Moules Frites’ (steamed mussels with French fries). Cook Rabeux is enthusiastic about the quality of fish in Burma, and is hoping to serve a new fish dish every Friday.

Up Pyay Road, a few minutes from the Myaynigone intersection, Rendez-Vous is set a little back from the bustle of the main road, and the tranquil setting makes it an ideal place to bring families, or while away a lazy afternoon. Though The Irrawaddy visited for lunch, Rendez-Vous is open Monday – Saturday, 10am – 11pm, and it is easy to imagine as an enjoyable dinner choice, with its cosy outdoors dining area. A promising start!