Meals blend traditional, regional Myanmar dishes with selections from the country's neighbors -- China, Thailand, Laos, Bangladesh and India. Additionally, a supplemental a la carte menu is available for every meal, which includes standby Western cuisine items such as waffles, pancakes, burgers, sirloin steak, French fries and chicken breast. While passengers can order drinks of their choice any time of day, in the dining room a strong choice of wines is available at lunch and dinner. Aura servers have sommelier training and recommend wine pairings for menu items.
It's buffet service for breakfast and lunch, with a la carte menus also available. Dinner is a la carte. Passengers can order snacks from the kitchen and room service any time from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Scenic Aura chefs accommodate special dietary requests (such as lactose intolerance) and customize food preparations (vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.). Let the restaurant staff know of any preferences. Additionally, if you can't decide what to choose on a menu, don't hesitate to ask for both.
Bamar Dining Room (Deck 1): Three meals daily are served in the contemporary, airy dining room offering unobstructed Irrawaddy River views. It's open seating at any of the two-, four-, six- and eight-top tables. Along the back walls are beautiful, vertical gardens that double as wine racks with bottles nestled among the green leaves. Centered in the dining room is the Action Station, where a chef dressed in a classy black uniform donning a tall, black chef hat prepares made-to-order items during breakfast and lunch. Dinner is a la carte.
Full breakfast runs from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. The buffet circles the Action Station. The myriad breakfast items include egg dishes, grilled sausages, bacon, baked beans, fruit drinks, smoothies, cereals, lox, yogurts, fresh fruits, breads and pastries. In the Action Station, the chef makes omelets and other morning meal requests. The a la carte breakfast menu lists waffles, pancakes, French toast, eggs Benedict, minute steak and dim sum.
Buffet lunch served from noon to 1:30 p.m. features a tasty selection of appetizers, including international cheeses, salamis, breads, dim sum and mousses. Hot and cold buffet items change daily. Over the course of the cruise, offerings included smoked salmon sushi rolls, pork curry, duck-hoisin sauce pancakes, braised cabbage, a fish of the day, sauteed vegetables and a rice dish. Choose from several soups: cream of carrot and ginger, asparagus, mushroom, hot and sour vegetable and chilled coconut soup. Make your own green leaf salad with assorted toppings, or choose from several buffet salads, including daikon, Asian glass noodle, Thai beef, roasted sweet potato and Myanmar long bean-beef salad. Desserts vary daily and can include chocolate cake, chunky cookies and puddings. The housemade ice cream flavors change daily, too, with ginger, green tea and chocolate being my favorites. Wine and beer are available at lunch.
The Action Station chef whips up different lunch dishes each day, such as pan-fried duck breast with plum sauce, curries with paratha and poori flatbreads, and broth soup loaded with ingredients you choose (diced vegetables, chicken, glass noodles, egg noodles and spices). A la carte lunch menus changed daily, offering variations of burger, pasta, sandwich and vegetarian selections. Always available are sirloin steak, salmon steak and chicken breast with choice of French fries, baked potato or steamed rice.
Dinner starts at 7 p.m. The gourmet menu features a choice of appetizers, soups, salads, intermezzos, entrees and desserts. The executive chef's recommendations are noted on the menu. Attentive servers recommend fine, international wines paired with each course. Vintners on the wine list included El Campo, Yalumba, Domaine de la Baume, Chateau Boyar, Cape Creek, Chateau Bouteilley, Oxford Landing and Marius by Michel Chapoutier.
There were several themed dinner events. The Burmese dinner served family-style highlights traditional Myanmar (Burma) dishes and some creative, contemporary takes on them. The Chef Tea Dinner's selections all utilized tea in their ingredients. The beach bonfire barbecue accompanied by a live band was delicious and fun. At the elegant Gala feast celebrating the finale of the cruise, everyone wore beautiful longyis, the traditional skirt-like clothing item the people of Myanmar wear. Scenic provided the longyis.
Each night the hotel manager invites six passengers for a seven-course Teppanyaki dining experience. The menu featured an asparagus-quail egg appetizer, soy glazed salmon pomelo salad, prawn chawanmushi, dragon fruit sorbet, Australian Meltique beef sirloin and chocolate tempura cake with black pepper ice cream.
River Cafe (Deck 2): Located in the Mandalay Lounge, the cafe has a 24-hour coffee and tea station and, next to the bar, a glass case housing fresh daily sandwiches, snacks and cakes. This is a light lunch option instead of the dining room's buffet. Starting at 6 a.m., early risers get coffee, tea and freshly baked pastries in the cafe. You can also ask your butler to deliver coffee and pastry to your cabin.
Mandalay Lounge (Deck 2): The contemporary, clubby Mandalay Lounge is the social center of the ship. It's decorated in charcoal and cream-colored nubby fabrics, shimmering teal chenille pillows and dark, glossy woods. Skilled bartenders mix craft cocktails of premium, international liquor while chatting with passengers seated at the bar centered in the lounge. Mounted television screens are in the corners.
Crunchy sesame and chili pepper-seasoned bar snacks and a selection of hors d'oeuvres are passed during the nightly port talks held in the lounge at 6:45 p.m. All passengers gather to hear the hotel manager's and river tour guides' informative presentations supplemented with slideshows on the televisions that prepare passengers for the next day's excursions.
After dinner, many passengers head back upstairs to the lounge for nightcaps and socializing, if there isn't scheduled, evening entertainment on the Sun Deck. One night a passenger connected her iPhone play list to the lounge's audio system creating an instant dance party.
Room Service: Prefer to dine in the privacy of your cabin? Room service is available from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Selections from a robust menu feature spring roll bites, chicken Caesar salad, soups, pastas, assorted sandwiches, cheese platter and chocolate fudge cake.