April 30, 2019
Mona's mystique is more than skin deep: On the surface, this might seem like a shimmering restaurant with a sleekly modern slant. But look closer and several blasts from the past come into sharp focus - black-and-white portraits of Malay female silver screen stars, vinyl records and vintage cameras and typewriters.
These showbiz flourishes spotlight a personal significance for Mona's founders. This is not merely a place to eat - it's a springboard for the ambitions of a group of young Malaysian cineastes. Its name is a nod to a fictitious femme fatale created by the venue's lead auteur, Imran Sheik, who's currently plotting a House of Cards-style political thriller called 'Daulat' that's poised to hit multiplexes next year.
The restaurant itself aims to help fund the film, furnishing a creative solution to independent movie-making - this means that a meal at Mona offers more than an opportunity to step into a setting that gorgeously melds contemporary grandeur with classic glamour. It's a means to support the local cinema scene and a fresh generation of talented artists.
Mona's helmers aren't just film addicts; they're also food aficionados. The flagship crowd-rouser is the Salted Egg Butter Chicken (RM17.90), which brings together two poultry preparations - salted egg and buttermilk - in one platter of pure pleasure.
If this recipe tastes familiar, you might be remembering it from Subang Jaya's popular Jibril cafe - the team behind Mona also launched Jibril four years ago (fun fact: Jibril is also the name of a character conceived by Imran, turned into a TV series in 2018, while Mona was the antagonist on the show).
Imran and his cohorts have long been fans of both butter chicken and salted egg chicken, scouring Subang and beyond for renditions to relish. Their hybrid version blends the best virtues of both, bringing together the creamy sweetness of butter chicken with the lush savouriness of salted egg chicken, relying on quality ingredients like genuine salted egg.
The Salted Egg Butter Chicken alone would be worth the visit to Mona, but the kitchen has one-upped its own concoction with Nasi Lemak Butter Chicken (RM19.90) - the distinctively aromatic rice with all its essential accompaniments is elevated with a spicy variant of the butter chicken, featuring thigh meat for thoroughly tender, bone-free bites.
Don't skip the Salted Egg Chicken Wings (RM18.90) either - this is the twentieth-or-so iteration of this recipe, polished as close to perfection as possible, crisp to the bite, juicy to the chew, with a terrifically calibrated taste that's confident without being cloying.
For more playful poultry pleasure, pick up the Oriental Duck Egg Noodles (RM17.90), bringing together Malaysia's instant-noodle indulgence and American Chinese suppertime takeaways, bundled into a crowd-rousing treat for Maggi and Indomie fans, blanketed with smoked duck made punchy with a spectrum of East Asian condiments, including hoisin sauce, five-spice powder and fried sambal ayam penyet. This ticks the box for Malaysians who love robust, fiery dynamics in their food.
Meat is a mighty force at Mona too, ideal if you're craving a full-fleshed, protein-powered meal at Solaris Dutamas. Taking its name from the iconic 1960s-era singer-actress, the Saloma Steak offers beef that's done precisely to your preference - medium-rare in our case (a reasonably priced RM49.90 for a standard 10oz striploin; add RM10 for a ribeye, with a choice of mushroom, black pepper or spicy sauce); if you favour sweetly marinated lamb instead, or even a hefty beef burger with fries for the quintessential U.S.-diner temptation, Mona's menu has it all.
Beat the heat with the tropical flourishes of an Iced Lychee Tea and Passion Pink Lemonade; alternatively, sip on something stronger with cocktails that seek to imaginatively showcase Malaysian inspirations, spanning cendol to cincau (unlike Jibril, Mona offers alcohol). Options include the Cendol Colada (RM22; Malibu, kahlua, pineapple, cendol), Asam Cooler (RM22; gin, vodka, Galliano, apples, asam boi) and ABC Slide (RM22; Bailey's, kahlua, cincau, red bean, corn) - fun stuff for a night when you want to let your hair down, like Mona herself certainly would. And if you want to enjoy the evening in private, a beautifully outfitted room is available at the back.
Many thanks to the Mona team for having us here.
D3-G3-8, Solaris Dutamas, No, 1, Jalan Dutamas 1, 50480 Kuala Lumpur. Daily, 11am-12am.
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