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The man bringing good cheese to Myanmar
How a self-taught producer has built a thriving artisan restaurant selling cheeses, pizzas and breads in Yangon
A man with a dream and a passion for cheese has built one of the most visit-worthy spots in Myanmar’s food scene.
Sharky’s restaurant and deli specializes in artisan food made from locally sourced ingredients, including dry-aged beef, homemade bread and pizzas.
It may not be traditional Myanmar cuisine, but it’s tasty and supports the work of local farmers and livestock growers.
Sharky’s is the culmination of an unusual journey for enthusiastic founder Ye Htut Win.
After living in Switzerland for nearly 20 years (he worked at Wendy’s and ran a nightclub), Ye decided to return to his native Burma in the mid-1990s.
“I felt that it was time to go back home,” he says.
He started farming, spending the next five years struggling to learn agricultural techniques and launch a business when Myanmar was isolated politically and economically from much of the outside world.
His first customer was the historic Strand Hotel, which bought arugula, basil and Italian parsley.
Among his more outlandish goals? To bring Swiss cheese-making techniques back home.
He started by learning to make sbrinz, a hard Swiss cheese, in what he describes as the beginning of “a cycle of trial and error.”
By 1999, he launched his first shop, selling salads and cheese out of his mother’s house near the Australian embassy.
It took five years before he started making money.
Now Sharky’s has a booming restaurant and takeout business and supplies high-end hotels and tours including The Governor’s Residence in Yangon.
The restaurant produces 18 kinds of local cheese, its own salt, aged ham, gelato, even tabasco sauce. It supports farmers and suppliers throughout the country.
Ye recommends the signature dry-aged tenderloin, which he believes sets a new standard for Myanmar beef.
“Before my introduction, the meat was considered inedible,” he says.
Sharky’s food is expensive for Yangon, but worth the splurge in a city that’s still finding its culinary feet.
The hamburgers are juicy and the list of pizzas long and varied. The microgreen salad that is served with meals is refreshing after a day in the local heat.
Sharky’s, 17, Dhamazedi Road, Kamayut Township, Yangon; +95 1 524 677; 9 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week