March 05, 2015

Joo Bar @ Tan Quee Lan Street ~ Love This Trendy Korean Makgeolli Bar & Restaurant!

The address reads: 5 Tan Quee Lan Street, but I can't find it! Blur me actually walked right passed the understated entrance of Joo Bar which is located along the same stretch as Sawadee Thai and GastroSmiths (right across Bugis Junction). Glad I did managed to get myself there eventually, because this modern Korean makgeolli bar and restaurant is one of the more promising establishments to open recently. I love the place!

Created by a pair of Singaporeans who are aficionados of Korean culture and food, Joo Bar is housed in a heritage 3-storey shophouse that has been stylishly furbished within.

The space could barely contain its sexy edginess which threatens to spill from every corner, looking modernistic yet exuding a sense of laidback cosiness with white-washed walls, dark wooden furniture and black accents.

Check out the eye-catching hand-painted wall mural of Korean drinking etiquette!

If you're wondering what 'Joo' means, it is 'alcohol' in Korean. The name itself strongly defines Joo Bar's identity as a bar first, with food taking a supporting role to complement their funky drinks menu.

It is said that while the rest of the world have a drink with their meal, Koreans prefer to have a meal with their drink!

And the star beverage at Joo bar is undoubtedly the signature Makgeolli. Joo Bar is the first in Singapore to proudly brew the Korean rice wine in-house and serve it on tap.

Did you know that Makgeolli is the oldest alcoholic beverage native to Korea and Koreans believe that the combination of nutrients in it helps to aid digestion, lower cholesterol and slow down ageing process? I'm sold!

My virgin experience of this cloudy-looking drink wasn't too bad, the best bet would be to get the Makgeolli Sampler ($35 for 5) if you're also a newbie to it. The 5 flavors ranges from original to fruity blends such as lychee (my favorite!), mango, strawberry and a very pleasing yucha (Korean citron) which is most well-received by our table.

Served chilled, the makgeolli's light body and mild taste was easy to accept, but pace yourself well as its alcohol (ABV) content of 6-8% is considered quite high when compared to beer (at least for a teetotaler like me).

A range of cocktails using soju such as the Soju Mojito ($14/$24/$40) in lime or grape flavor provides a fresh take on traditional drinks. The bubbly Yucha Sojurita ($28) featuring a 330ml of Hite beer dunked in a big glass of frozen soju-yucha-Cointreau-lemon juice mix is perfect for group of 2 to 4 friends to share. So fun and delightful to drink!

A trio of Banchan may be offered as a complimentary starter reflecting Joo Bar's roots in Korean culture, but this watering hole is definitely not your typical traditional Korean joint. Their take on Korean cuisine is contemporary with western influences, shown apparently from the preparation method, to the final presentation and taste.

I thought Korean's Anju (typically food that goes well with alcohol) is somewhat an Asian version of Spanish tapas, with selections such as crispy Baby Eel Paper ($14), Tofu Chips ($14) accompanied by a duo dip of guacamole and kimchi salsa, as well as the "DIY sandwich" of  Warm Kimchi with Tofu and Spam ($16) kick-starting the evening.

Of course I also have to order the Joo Wings ($18), fried chicken wings coated in a lip-smacking spicy and sweet soy glaze. These were way too addictive!

But carnivore me like to have a more substantial bite even when the focus is on drinks, that's when those platters of prime pork pickings seemed to be created just for this PinkyPiggu lol! Only the best Hungarian Mangalisa pork is used, it can be hard to decide which way I like it better, for both boiled and slow-roasted renditions have its own delicious merits.

The Joo Bossam ($28) was a showcase of luscious fatty meat that is boiled with doenjang (fermented bean paste) and served with sides of invigorating white cabbage that is pickled in yucha-vinegar, and spicy radish salad. Slow-roasted Mangalitsa Belly ($32) steal our hearts too with meat that is brined in a mixture of salt, pepper, soju and makgeolli, before it is steam-roasted to tender loveliness and served with shredded chives and mustard dip.

What I would highly recommend too is the Hand-chopped Korean Minced Rib Steak ($20). It may not look much at initial glance, but the thin patty of flame-grilled tender US prime beef burst with such succulence and loadful of flavors that to give it a miss would be sorely regretful!

Other highlights from the food menu includes Korean favorites such as Army Stew ($24) and Seafood Soft Tofu Stew ($24). Fusion creations take an interesting noteworthy spot with offerings like the Kimchi Chicken Potpie ($14), Kimchi Shrimp Pasta ($24) and Seafood Gochujang Risotto ($24).

Ooh ooh ooh that plate of creamy, appetite whetting Seafood Gochujang Risotto ($24) with notes of subtle spiciness!!! So yummilicious and generously brimming with prawns, mussels, clams & squids sautéed in hot pepper paste, finished with sprinklings of parmesan cheese. Though more risotto-inspired rather than a risotto dish in strictest sense as it used Korean short-grain rice instead of the typical arborio rice, it was nevertheless gratifying.

All in all, Joo Bar is a great place to chillax, have some drinks, have some food. But do manage your expectations and come with an open mind that not everything adheres to what would be ideally authentic. Just grab some great company along and make it an awesome evening to enjoy!

Joo Bar
Address: 5 Tan Quee Lan Street, Singapore 188094
Contact: +65 81381628
Opening Hours: Daily 5.30pm to 12am

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