Images: Joo Bar Singapore
Tucked into an unexpected corner of town and surprisingly near Bugis MRT (bonus marks for the convenient location) is Singapore’s only bar to brew their own makgeolli ‒ that’s Korean rice wine. The three month old restaurant and bar has yet to explode; but we see it happening soon ‒ it’s Instagram worthy interior is just the tip of the Joo-experience-iceberg when you step into this cozy brewery.
1. Makgeolli Sampler, $35
Quick explanation: Makgeolli refers to roughly filtered rice wine. Makgeolli at Joo is actually a house brew that they make ‒ really worth a try!
We were served a long platter of makgeolli with flavours like strawberry, peach, yuzu, lychee and not to forget, the original makgeolli. Sounds a little bit like Yakult? It tastes a little like it too ‒ the flavour reminds me of the Calpis drinks you get in Japanese supermarkets, albeit heavier. The flavours tend to change according to which fruits are best in the season.
For heavy drinkers, makgeolli might seem mild but don’t knock these back too quickly! The alcohol percentage is about 6-8 percent and people tend to get tipsy before they know it. The taste of alcohol is stronger on your second sip since the rice wine is quite a heavy suspension that tends to collect at the bottom of your cup. I recommend swirling as you sip, or drinking the whole thing at once!
2. Baby Eel Paper, $14
I felt pretty sorry for the baby eels before I bit in, and afterwards, not so much. The crispy snack is really addictive; especially when you add a squeeze of lime. Maybe avoid looking into their eyes?
3. Kimchi Chicken Potpie, $14
This dishy fusion of Korean and American food gives regular pot pie a run for its money with two new ingredients ‒ kimchi, and cheese. The cheesy sauce isn’t too overwhelming and the chopped kimchi gives this hearty dish just the right amount of spice. The crispy crust that enveloped the dish in warmth doesn’t hurt either.
4. Hand Chopped Korean Minced Rib Steak, $20
We wish they had a double pound burger for this steak and we would eat that all day ‒ the steak is surprisingly succulent and completely belies its ‘hamburger steak’ appearance.
5. Soju Mojitos, $14 per glass
If makgeolli isn’t your thing, try a Soju Mojito ‒ it’s a refreshing cocktail bedecked with minty greens and crushed ice. Comes in two flavours, lime and grape.
OTHER DISHES WE TRIED:
Tofu chips with guacamole and kimchi salsa, $14
The octagonal shaped tofu chips were interesting, but were too heavy and greasy for my taste. The diced kimchi did balance it out a bit with its refreshing taste.
Warm kimchi with tofu and spam, $16
It tasted pretty good, but prepare to open wide! The authentic way to eat this is by layering the kimchi, tofu, spam and meat and eating it all at once – pretty overwhelming for small mouths!
Slow roasted mangalitsa belly, $32
I was slightly disappointed by this dish, mainly because the pork belly wasn’t as tender as I hoped it would be. Though it didn’t taste raw, the spring onion salad failed to be refreshing and was a little hard to chew. That said, the meat was flavourful from slow roasting.
Joo bossam, $28
Same mangalitsa pork belly, but boiled and served with a zesty white yucha kimchi and a spicy radish salad. I prefered this to the slow roasted belly for its firm flavour and chewiness. The yucha kimchi made quite an impression too!
Seafood gochuchang risotto, $24
It might because we ate so much, but the seafood risotto seemed creamy and heavy. One might attribute it to the rice ‒ the owners pride themselves on using Japanese pearl rice instead of the usual long grain variety. The dish also comes with a generous dousing of red pepper cream sauce and a heaping of shrimps, mussels, clams and squid ‒ a feast for seafood lovers!
Meanwhile, let my stomach rest please.
Joo Bar is located at 5 Tan Quee Lan Street, Singapore 188094, Tel: 8138 1628, Opening hours: 5.30pm to 12 midnight. For more information, you can visit the site or follow them on Instagram here.
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