XpBonaire IslandLife Feature Story
Tourists who have not visited Bonaire for years almost all ask the same question, "Is that bar in the center of town where you can eat so well still there?" Fortunately, the answer is yes! One of the most famous bar/restaurants in the center of Bonaire is the Mona Lisa. For many people, the “Mona”, just like Zeezicht, has been around for as long as Bonaire itself.
Since 1996, Douwe Dooper and Hans Holkenborg have been the driving force behind the brown café/restaurant where past and present come together in a tasteful way. Hans mainly takes care of the bar. There he manages to find an excellent balance between his tasks as a distinguished host and a good, old-fashioned village innkeeper. He is always extremely friendly, fully informed and tight lipped as an oyster, unless it concerns information that cannot harm anyone. This way the atmosphere at the bar is always consistent, cozy and comfortable whenever you sit down.
A small part of the kitchen can be seen through the hatch in the bar area where Douwe is putting the finishing touches on his culinary creations. Just as with Hans, you also know what you get with Douwe - always a happy face and busy, but always up for a small, friendly chat.
Perhaps it is the stability of these gentlemen that has made Mona Lisa so popular for years. Just like the bar, the restaurant is a step back in time, with functionality as the main goal. As with the hosts themselves, the servers also understand their profession very well; friendly, helpful and adequate.
Our starters consisted of a tuna sashimi and the famous French onion soup. In one of the previous reviews, I wrote some background information about the tuna which is not always available freshly caught. The tuna sashimi is therefore not standard on the menu, but is only offered as a special. Douwe must be 100% satisfied with its quality, otherwise the dish will leave the kitchen at the back instead of the front.
Onion soup is an old standard at the Mona, a beautifully, tasty soup that reveals the chef's craftsmanship on all fronts.
Because Mona Lisa also offers simpler meals called “barhap”, we chose a barhap and a dish from the menu as main course. The barhap choice was a red snapper fillet with saffron sauce. That in itself was quite difficult to choose, because the barhap also features the pork tenderloin satay which is still unparalleled in my opinion. It was really no surprise that the perfectly cooked red snapper tasted excellent.
We chose the rack of lamb with honey-thyme sauce from the menu. There was nothing but praise for this, perfectly cooked and a sauce that subtly highlights the ingredients.
Apparently the amount was more than enough, so we skipped dessert this time.
While almost a full-fledged dessert, we ended with an Irish coffee, prepared with the utmost care by Hans and as it should be, with cream and not whipped cream. Just like the regular coffee, the Irish variant is also served with a Frysk Dúmke, a hazelnut biscuit with aniseed, baked by Douwe. The biscuits, Friese Duimpjes, which means Frisian Thumbs owes its name to an old custom among bakers. In the past, the baker would press his thumb into the still soft dough after baking to leave a kind of signature. Whether Douwe does that is of course a secret that will never leave the kitchen of the Mona Lisa.
We enjoyed a great dinner. To be honest, not the first, but certainly not the last.