Provocative restaurant/bar Sum Yi Tai — which means “third wife” in Cantonese — has already made quite the name for itself, with its edgy, gritty vibes reminiscent of Wong Kar Wai flicks. Taking up the first floor in a shop house unit, it’s stylish and attention-grabbing — definitely unlike that of your usual watering holes.
And now Sum Yi Tai taking things up a notch, quite literally, with a secretive new second-floor backroom bar, Mona Lounge. Conceptualized as an elegant, intimate cocktail haunt for Mona (said third wife) and her companions — so invested are they in the backstory, you can even add “Mona” as a friend on Facebook — the space brings you back to the hedonism of 1980s Hong Kong, with glamour and decadence on full, glorious display. Think plush leather sofas, gleaming tables studded with mahjong and gold tiles, and chandeliers glittering from the ceiling.
Of course, with such mystery and magnetism in one place, there’s gotta be some exclusivity to it. So instead of simply strolling straight into the lounge, guests have to pop in to Sum Yi Tai and request to see Mona. Then they’ll be given a code for a locked door that opens into a spiral staircase, which leads you right to the indulgent experience.
With jazzed-up, modern renditions of classic Chinese tunes as your backdrop, you can sit snug in your chair while you peruse the cocktail menu created by head bartender Byron Tan and group chief bartender Sam Wong — both of whom will gladly spin tales of Mona and reveal the stories behind her concoctions.
But before you embark on your journey of potent liquid libations, first pad your stomach with Cantonese bar snacks from the kitchen downstairs. Addictive dishes include the likes of luncheon meat chips ($9), shrimp paste fried chicken wings ($10), Szechuan-style fried chicken skin ($12), crispy roast pork ($12), and maple honey glazed char siew ($12).
In between bites, start light with Lady’s Elixir ($22), a skinny cocktail with a base of Remy Martin VSOP, ideal for those who can’t really hold their liquor. The potion is mixed with in-house infused monk fruit soda and sea salt drops, then garnished with a lemon peel. It goes down smooth, and it’s apparently got “near-zero” calories, which makes for quite the convincing argument to make it your drink of choice for the night.
Meanwhile, That First Bouquet ($22) is created to capture that whirlwind feeling of falling in love — with a twist, naturally. It’s made with Encanto pisco, thyme-infused Aperol, hibiscus syrup, lime juice, grapefruit bitters, and sour plum powder.
Next up, Mona’s Tea ($22), a cognac concoction of oolong PX sherry and Fernet Branca, served in a pretty little teacup with salted egg chocolate by local chocolatier Fossa Chocolate. To enhance the bitterness of the Fernet Branca, nibble on the snack before you take a sip.
Oh, and if you’ve never thought of Pei Pa Koa as a cocktail ingredient, perhaps you’ll think twice after a visit here. With the Songstress ($22) as a version of the Old Fashioned, this drink is served in the familiar Chinese herbal bottle as a blend of Bulleit Rye whiskey with Pei Pa Koa and angostura bitters, leaving a sweet herbal hint with a minty aftertaste.
However, during our visit, the all-round table favorite was undoubtedly Dangerous Romance ($22), the bar’s tribute to two familiar cocktails: Bloody Mary and Margarita. And really, the drink does justice and beyond to both classics, with its mix of Espolon Blanco, triple sec, tomato shrub, honey, and lemon juice for nicely-balanced sweet and citrusy notes. Plus, it’s served with a slice of bak kwa which, let’s be honest, makes everything in life that much better.
After you’ve had your fill of laughs and liquid calories at Mona Lounge, cap off your evening at the open-air rooftop bar, where the cool breezes and the surrounding views make for quite the enjoyable end to a night out.
Mona Lounge is at L2, 25 Boon Tat St.
6221-3665, Mon-Sat 6pm-1am.
MRT: Telok Ayer