Wednesday, 28 June 2017

(The Star) Berry good burst of flavours

The most common grouse about healthy food is that it is not very pleasant to the palate.

Acai Lab, located in Solaris Mont Kiara, aims to bust this myth and then some.

To start off, on its menu board is a gentle reminder that the correct pronunciation of acai is ah-sah-ee.

“Most people mispronounce it as ‘achai’,” says co-founder and managing partner Evan Chee.

Native to Central America, acai berries are known as the king of the superfruit jungle.

An acai bowl works well as a meal replacement and is packed with nutrition.

The acai palm trees grow wild in abundance and its fruits are a staple for Amazonian riverside and urban centre populations as it is easily available and rich in antioxidants and nutrition.

Chee got a taste of this purple berry when he was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he said acai bowls were sold everywhere, especially along the beaches.

Acai bowls comprise the blended fruit, which is then topped with slices of other fruits, cereal or nuts.

“It is particularly popular among jujitsu practitioners and fitness enthusiasts because it is healthy and packed with nutrition but it is simply a fruit loved by the locals,” said Chee, who was in the seaside city for a jujitsu training stint.

His business partner, Cristiano Genuino, who hails from Brazil, confirmed this.

Genuino (left) and Chee started Acai Lab with the aim of promoting healthy eating and the wonders of acai berries.

“Acai bowl is like our nasi lemak – we eat it anytime, any day,” said Genuino, who has been living in Malaysia for 11 years.

Unlike many other eateries and cafes that bring in the processed berries in powder form, Acai Lab imports the fruit directly from Brazil and blends it here in their cafe to be scooped into the three types of acai bowls and two smoothies currently on their menu.

So, their servings are as fresh as it can get on Malaysian shores.

Their best-seller is the Rio Bowl, which is also the most popular acai bowl in Brazil.

For this bowl, you get the blended berries with bananas, apple juice, strawberry, honey and Acai Lab’s homemade granola.

The acai base is thick and creamy, almost like ice-cream and together with the toppings, the burst of tropical flavours makes it a clear favourite.

The sweetness in all Acai Lab’s bowls comes not from sugar, but guarana – a plant also from the Amazon – used as a natural sweetener.

The Rio Bowl pays homage to Brazil‘s most popular bowl.

True to the Malaysian-Brazilian partnership of Acai Lab, the cafe also aims to serve up a blend of the two cultures and with that, the Harimau Malaysia bowl was created.

The acai blend base is topped with local fruits – bananas, mangoes and dragon fruit, as well as vanilla ice-cream and their homemade granola.

The texture and taste of the base is already similar to frozen desserts so the addition of vanilla ice-cream is a real treat.

Acknowledging that the fitness lifestyle is a growing trend here, Acai Lab also has something for those looking to recharge after a workout.

Aptly named the Muscle Up bowl, this bowl has acai blend, bananas, chocolate whey protein, coconut water, grapes, chia seeds and a drizzle of Acai Lab’s homemade peanut butter.

All three bowls pack a punch with its unique bursts of flavours but Harimau Malaysia’s chocolatey concoction topped with peanut butter tipped the scale for me.

Another myth straightened out – these treats commonly misjudged for empty calories can actually be healthy if consumed in the right proportion and method.

The Muscle Up bowl is perfect for those wanting a boost after working out. — Photos: SIA HONG KIAU /The Star

“I love Malaysian food, but too much of it is unhealthy and so, we want to promote healthy eating here.

“An acai bowl works well as a meal replacement because it fills you up and the bonus is that it is healthy with superfood acai as its base,” said Genuino.

For those looking to quench their thirst in scorching hot weather, the Acai Cooler Smoothie will do the trick.

Acai berries, watermelon and lychee are blended together for this signature smoothie.

The other smoothie available is the Pineapple Break Smoothie, featuring acai, pineapples, banana and coconut.

If you have already filled yourself up with the acai bowls and prefer a hot drink, Acai Lab has freshly brewed coffee and the usual range of latte, cappuccino and hot chocolate.

To bust the myth that healthy food is expensive, Acai Lab keeps their servings affordable with a medium bowl costing RM15.90 and a large one at RM21, while the smoothies cost RM9.90.

ACAI LAB No. 12, Jalan Solaris 3, Solaris Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur. Business hours: 10am to 10pm daily, closed on Fridays.

This is the writer’s personal observation and is not an endorsement by StarMetro.