One goes to Mona Bar not just for smoothie bowls but for an oasis of calm. With lo-fi tunes murmuring in the background set against rustic rattan lamps and a coconut palm roof, you might think I stumbled into one of the many açai places in Bali, except that I’m somewhere along Beach Road and there is not a beach in sight.
When I share this observation with the 25-year-old owner of Mona Bar, Muhammad Muhaimin Bin Suhaimi, or Min as he prefers it, he chuckles at the comparison. Sure, he muses, if that’s what people feel like Mona Bar needs to be. But, Min has loftier aspirations for two-month-old Mona Bar. More than just a carbon copy of the hippy-dippy joints in Bali (though, there’s nothing wrong with that) or another piece in the intensely saturated açai market, Min intends for these smoothie bowls to be a stepping stone into healthy eating for the Malay-Muslim community.
Bursting with earnestness, Min relates how the trend of matcha drinking, slurping up açai, and the copious amount of chia seed on everything hasn’t quite reached the Malay-Muslim community yet. Min’s been there himself, blithely unaware of what he was eating and when being healthy was the last thing on his mind. It was only after a trip to Bali with this wife that Min had his smoothie bowl awakening.
What I tried
Aah, you might think that açai and smoothie bowls are the same things. Well, this yoga-loving, kale juicer, plant mom, and Min will tell you otherwise. Açai tends to come in a tub, and your local açai place would usually scoop some out and brandish it with nut butter and goji berries, very much like your ice cream or sorbet except with ten times the antioxidants. For Min, he finds that deep-freezing anything results in freezer burn, you know when your ice cream tastes a little icy, and you can’t comfortably eat your feelings away.
Smoothie bowls are exactly what they sound like—smoothies presented in a bowl and with toppings. As the first to venture into the business of making smoothie bowls and careful not to put all his açai berries into one basket, he started with a home business first.
Lo and behold, it took off faster than he expected. Emboldened by the response, Mona Bar came into fruition. Each bowl is a blend-to-order, served a la minute and as Min got to work, I soaked up the calm and quiet of Mona Bar.
One thing you have to appreciate about smoothie bowls is how they were made to be photographed. A spread of bananas here, a striking fan of strawberries there, pathways of chia seeds and shaved coconuts all but make the bowl worthy of the ‘gram.
I reached for bright Dewi (S$8.50 for Medium, S$9.90 for Large) that was made from a tropical concoction of mango, passion fruit. Delightfully acidic with an unmistakable zing and pucker, this bowl hearkens to sun-drenched afternoons and the intoxicatingly familiar scent of Coppertone sunblock and sea air.
I must say, Mona Bar does not scrimp on their toppings—a thick layer of chia seed pudding that always reminds me of frog’s eggs, flax seeds and a liberal shower of granola, the hippy LA girls would make their way here if they could.
The same could be said for Kartika (S$8.50 for Medium, S$9.90 for Large) that features the vibrant hue of the purple dragon fruit accompanied by a cornucopia of health foods great hits—not that I’m complaining.
“It’s supposed to be a meal replacement,” Min tells me in between mouthfuls of chia seed pudding. Perhaps, that is also one of the reasons he loads up each bowl with granola and seeds that are meant to keep you full.
There is a pedagogical edge to Mona Bar apart from being your friendly neighbourhood smoothie bowl joint. Min hopes this will educate his community of the benefits of healthy eating and maybe replacing one of your nasi padang nights for one of these.
It doesn’t have to be all banana and blueberries when it comes to healthy eating. Mona Bar makes it a little cheeky with Koko (S$9.50 for Medium, S$11.50 for Large). No point for guessing what this one has.
An amalgamation of cocoa, peanut butter and almond milk make this a decadent but light treat one needs on any day of the week. A comfortable level of sweetness that is neither cloying nor overly saccharine with tiny squares of dark chocolate that make you forget this is for eating better.
Smoothie bowls get a bad rap for being expensive bowls of sugar disguised as healthy treats, but here they are not. It’s clear from the well-balanced bowl that Min has thought about everything and teetered carefully on the edge of being healthy and tasty.
The bougainvillaeas fluttered gently in the breeze as an acoustic version of Justin Bieber’s Intentions came on, I mulled on how Min’s own intentions came through with each whirl of the blender. While trends come and go, it’s clear that Mona Bar’s purpose will carry its way beyond the next health fad.
Expected Damage: S$8.50 – S$11.50 per pax
Our Rating: 3 / 5
14 Beach Road, #01-4667 , Singapore 190014
14 Beach Road, #01-4667 , Singapore 190014