Rose Garden’s latin affair
Salsa, Mexican fajitas and Brazilian churrascaria in a hotel lobby.
O N a normal weekday, the Rose Garden Hotel on Pansodan is a rather formal affair. Serious-looking people waltz in and out of conference rooms. Tourists who have picked the hotel for its strategic location set for a day of sightseeing in Yangon. On Sundays, however, the Naypyitawes quel ooking building lights up.
Every other weekend, at brunch time, the lobby of the Rose Garden turns into a ball room very much alike the patio of an hacienda. Cactus pop up on the tables. Waitresses are wrapped up in red and green dresses. Waiters sport ponchos and Mexican hats. It all becomes a very latin affair. Weekend was invited to try out the food and the South American atmosphere.
This was the second edition -- and it will surely not be the last given the number of guests present that day. Most tables were booked when we arrived. The large decorated hall was filled with a joyful mix of locals and tourists.
We sat down and were offered mojitos from the mojito bar. They were executed with professionalism and a lot of generosity. The Rose Garden baristas are not stingy on the Bacardi and the latin affair package includes an unlimited amount of it (go easy, though, the event stops at 4pm, not 2am). We went for classic mojitos but were told that more exotic ones were on offers, like the mango mojito.
We then visited the different Mexican-infused stations dispatched across the room. We kicked off with the fajita corner. There is nothing better to fill up an hombre’s belly than a corn tortilla wrapping a good dose of meat, fresh peppers, guacamole and cream. The Rose Garden’s station ticketed all the boxes. It had a choice of beef or chicken, and a dozen of cassolettes of sauces and condiments to choose from. Once your selection is made, the chef enthusiastically cooks the mix before your eyes.
The quesadillas section was equally satisfying. Crunchy bits of tortillas filled with cheese and beef landed on our table, accompanied by cream, dice tomato and vegetables. As the chef explained, the Burmese are not necessarily fans of Tex-mex cuisine, but they love variety. And there is a lot of this in the latin affair package.
In fact, Tex-mex is a rather new addition to the Yangon culinary scene. Manana occupies a space in Pearl Condo and recently opened a branch downtown, but in our view, its products lack the freshness found in Rose Garden. Union Grill did a few Mexican brunch, but it is not (at least to our knowledge) a recurrent thing. Rose Garden tries to create “a niche on its own,” as one manager puts it. And it works.
La Havana in Yangon The latin affair is very much a unique experience. As we were pacing ourselves after a few rounds of delicacies, the music started and a group of two dancers from the Fusion Dance Troupe took the centre stage. In between two servings, one can take a salsa class on the spot. The pair warmed up the dancefloor and guests quickly joined in to the tune of Iglesias and the likes. Lazers and flashes were blazing, an atmosphere of fiesta took the whole lobby.
After we had danced out the calories we had put in earlier, we continued our exploration of the different stations. The salad bar offered a ravishingly fresh corn salad. The guacamole and dice tomato were almost creamy. The bean salad had a delicious crunch.
Next was the ceviche bar. Ceviches consist of slices of fish fillets marinated in lemon with a good dose of coriander and chillies. The citrus starts attacking the flesh of the fish and cooks it; the spice gives it flavor. Rose Garden offers at least 4 different types. The seabass is a great classic. The octopus in ceviche-style was a novelty to this reviewer -- but a great one. The prawn ceviche in mango juice was also a pleasant surprise. The tuna passed with flying colours.
But the highlights of the day was the chicken, lamb and beef in churrascaria style. A churrasco is a South american equivalent of a barbecue. It would be no different from what we are used to if it was not served on long spikes, cut and served directly on the plate by a Burmese sombrero always keen to top you up.
A few dances and mojitos later, we were set to consider dessert. A chocolate fountain and a assortment of chocolate desserts did not sound very latin at first, but one should not forget that chocolate was cultivate and cooked in South America before it took over the world.
The Latin affair package costs USD $26.00 per person. Children ages 4 to 11-year old get a 50% discount. The package also includes a dip in the hotel’s pool. No latin lover is offered though, that sort of latin affair will have to be looked for elsewhere. For the rest, Rose Garden has you covered.
I F you’d like to know how things are going in the world of robotics, you would do well to attend Robocup — the world cup of robot football — and not spend too long looking at the field.
Robots are terrible soccer players. They can’t run, they can’t jump, they sometimes wander off the pitch in a stupor, and after kicking the ball they often fall over like toddlers hitting a wall at the end of a Smarties binge. In the pantheon of computer-driven non-human sporting accomplishment, if Kasparov v Deep Blue is a 10 and sending a Black & Decker Toast-r-oven down a slope tied to a snowboard is a one, then robot football might rate a five. The novelty of a yellow-carded beep-boop-beep-boop from some deeply funded German university’s tech lab wears off pretty quickly.
Or at least it does for me. Almost everyone else at Le Palais de Congrès de Montreal, the airplane hangar-like site of the 22nd Robocup International Competition and Symposium, is riveted, if not by what’s happening on the various fields of competition, then by what’s on their insanely wired laptops, where the programs that will eventually lead to more autonomous robotic sport are being fine-tuned.
There are 35 countries, 5,000 robots, and 4,000 humans participating in this year’s Robocup. Some of the soccer bots look like cable boxes on wheels; others look like skinless garage Terminators with red-lit death eyes.
For natives of school and university robotics labs, Robocup carries more than a frisson of excitement. “It’s the thing we wait for all year,” says Lauren Copland, an 18-year-old engineering student from Minnesota. “Last night at dinner I sat next to one of the MIT teams and honestly, I couldn’t even believe it was happening.”
Copland is wearing a red boiler suit bearing the name of her school and her team’s sponsors. It is tied at the waist. “The sweat in here is crazy,” she says, breathlessly. “People have been here all night. Our coach told us when we came in this morning, ‘get ready, it’s going to stink. It’s going to be a mess.’”
Indeed, the packed room is a collision of hyper-complex thought clouds mingling with clouds of almost hallucinogenic body odour. Everywhere you look, some noodle of an 18-year-old genius from Bonn or clip-bearded prof in terrible jeans from Sydney is sitting with a drill or a robot head in one hand while tapping on a computer with the other, surrounded by crackers, granola bar wrappers and empty Gatorade bottles. Half the people I speak to have what could best be described as M&M breath.
And most do not want to speak with me. “Excuse me,” says a woman from one of the Iranian teams, “but talking is not now possible, because my robots are very much wanting me.”
To write that this is a world of nerds is missing the mark; Robocup is more proof that we are living in a post-nerd world. At the opening ceremony, the president of the Robocup Federation, Daniel Polani, a professor of artificial intelligence at University of Hertfordshire, mocked those who once mocked Robocup. “People would say, oh, go and be a doctor, be a lawyer — do something real.” Now, says Polani, everyone knows robots are our future, “and we will all make so much more money than the doctors and the lawyers.”
So ribbing the robot wonks today is like laughing at computer geeks in the 1980s. We all know who has the last laugh. Oliver Mitchell, a venture capitalist focused on automation technologies, says the technologies being employed by Robo cuppers “are elemental to what we’ll be seeing commercially not too far down the road.”
“The same vision that it would take for a robot to kick a ball to its mechanical teammate could be used in robots in a manufacturing centre,” says Mitchell. “The way a soccer robot can avoid an obstacle on the field? It’s the same way an autonomous vehicle might avoid obstacles on the road. The question here is what technologies will come from competitive play? How will the machine behaviour end up being useful to the agricultural marketplace, to autonomous driving, to smart cities?”
In recent years, Robocup has expanded competition into categories that have more direct real-world applications. There is now a logistics league, and one for domestic robots, and one for work robots. The team in the red boiler suits are not in Montreal for football, but rather Robocup Rescue, a competition for robots designed for use by emergency medical workers. Their robot is trying to manoeuvre a network of pipes — a stand-in for debris typical of an earthquake in an urban setting. “The robot has to get through without breaking the pipes, or touching the walls,” explains Copland, “because if there is a collapsed ceiling, moving any debris can bring everything down.”
I retreat to the Robocup bleachers, passing the pen where domestic robots serve drinks and tidy rooms, and another where robots are repeating numbers back to other machines. I think of a friend of mine who works in Silicon Valley, who told me 15 years ago that soon phones and televisions and computers would all merge onto the same device, something we’d carry around. Back then, I could barely believe such a mingling could exist. I think about Google Glass, and outsourced memory, and bionics that can make the legless faster than those with naturally able bodies.
I think about commercially available sex robots, and robots that connect with autistic children and Alzheimer’s patients, and how Adidas has brought some manufacturing back to Germany by using factory robots instead of human labour. I watch the green pitches below, where glossy white robots are playing the beautiful game slowly and gracelessly, albeit without anybody pulling any levers. And I know I am watching the seeds of the next big change.
We are turning into robots, and robots are turning into us. What this means for mankind is frighteningly unclear. So for now, my human mind finds relief in the fact that robots are still terrible at football.
Paso doble in between two servings of quesiladas A Tex-mex salad The fajitas station Chocolate delicacies
The barman in action.