Private Propertie Merges New Port of Call, Bar and Italian Eatery

By Claudia Sosa 16 June 2015

Even though he’s opened two eateries in the past eight months, sit chef Kevin Ching down, ask him what he’d like to do next, and marvel at the way he spouts restaurant ideas with the same sizzle as the decadent porchetta bits bursting through his tacos. He’d love to open a hipster Korean barbecue joint, or maybe a Vietnamese Pho garden; but then again, there’s the potential for well-done Burmese food to really take off.

It’s refreshing to have someone look at Rangoon’s culinary scene and, rather than moan in disdain, jump up and down with excitement. “This is a great place to write your story if you’re a young chef,” Ching adds to that effect.

Though their original intention was never to be evicted from TS1, late 2014 saw pop-up culinary experiment Port Autonomy move from Lanthit Jetty downtown to the sprawling, geese-inhabited gardens that once housed Le Planteur. The new venue is a little more tiki bar than the industrial-retro feel of their jetty digs, but the softshell crab melt is still on the menu and it’s as tender as ever in its creamy mixture of salsa verde and generous crab chunks, which come encased in crunchy ciabatta bread. What’s more, tacos have been added to the menu, spurred on by the fact that Ye Htut Win of Sharky’s fame recently decoded the secrets of the corn tortilla.

The original kitsch of the TS1 location has been turned up a notch, though the chef admits that Port Autonomy has always been “the original hipster restaurant.” Well, now it hosts beer pong tournaments and, in an ode to the Ching’s stint in Thailand, serves up perilous “dragon bowls”—the upscale Rangoon equivalent of the bucket of booze too many of us have consumed one lost night or another.

Port Autonomy, however, is only one-third of the trifecta making up Private Propertie, the newly named residence that also hosts The New Boris and La Carovana.

The New Boris is a small bar located on the ground floor of Private Propertie, but there’s nothing tiki about it. The striking array of brightly colored walls and rattan furniture lend it the feel of a Barneys catalogue—it’s too easy to picture an array of models lounging casually under the artsy chandelier. The room is so beautiful it’s a little intimidating; “Am I dressed up enough to be here?” It’s not a reaction many places in Rangoon elicit.

La Carovana, in a similar vein, is looking to serve up contemporary Italian fare that’s of the highest standards. It’s also proof that Kevin Ching is, if not the best, then at least the most innovative chef working in Rangoon right now. Dishes are exquisitely balanced, but they’re also inventive enough to surprise. The Manila clams were fresh and delightfully seasoned, and my mouth still waters at the memory of the risotto: Served with perfectly crisped cauliflower florets and touches of roe, the rice dish is topped with a delicate portion of Hamachi belly that’s served raw and cooks slowly as the dish steams.

My only reservation, aside from limitations imposed by my food reviewer’s wages, has to do with the marketing. The enterprise is unashamedly elitist—it’s named and spelled Private Propertie, after all—but the ambience at La Carovana does feel a little stuffy. This is surprising, given that Port Autonomy prides itself on being so fun, and begs the question: What would turn La Carovana into a fine dining experience that’s both delicious and inviting?

It’s hard to fight the impression that owner Ivan Pun has handed over the keys for Private Propertie to Ching and allowed him to make the place his own personal culinary playground. Luckily, Ching is tireless and gifted, offering up everything from a take on the oxtail soup that was his favorite as a child, to a variation on the porchetta that he perfected during his stint at Appia in Bangkok.

One thing is certain about this choose-your-own-adventure culinary experience: It will only get more interesting as Ching continues his near-manic exploration of food. I, for one, can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Private Propertie is located at 22 Kabar Aye Pagoda Road.