“Joo” is alcohol in Korean.
I’m usually not a Joo person, nor a bar person. Yet, when I first heard of the opening of Joo Bar, I was intrigued by the Korean bites it served, together with its funky looking drinks. I was very fortunate to be invited by Roy (@eatwithroy) and Joo Bar for a media tasting earlier this week.
Joo is the first and only bar in Singapore to brew its own makgeoli (Korean rice wine). If you’re not a fan of rice wine, fret not, they do also serve up a range of soju and soju cocktails, which by the way, are VERY photogenic and refreshing. Drinks aside, its food menu is not lacking at all. Their menu boasts of unique options and very presentable styles, and a huge emphasis placed on using homemade ingredients, so that we will be assured of authentic flavors. What a great place for all instagrammers eh? Well.. Except for the lighting, or lack thereof.
Located on Tan Quee.. wait what? Where’s that? Joo bar is located conveniently opposite Bugis Junction, and also just a 5 minute walk from Bugis Downtown Line Exit D. It may be difficult for you to locate the place though. I walked to and fro the entrance, as if it was the Room of Requirement from the Harry Potter series.
The entrance of Joo Bar is tinted black, with a rather inconspicuous sign. I did not realize that the pattern spelt JOO, until I took a picture of it, a good 3 hours later. See what i mean?! Okay no you don’t, it’s seriously difficult to spot it in real life.. ):.
The interior of Joo was extremely sleek, with rich hues of black and copper. Within this 3-storey shop house, these levels have been designed to convert into private rooms each, like the one we were seated in. Wow.
No fret for people who do not take alcohol, Joo has a variety of cold pressed juices, teas and soft drinks for you! However, the star of Joo will definitely be the alcoholic options, with a focus on their home-brewed Makgeolli, korean rice wine. Makgeolli, is this cloudy, light bodied and pretty mild tasting drink, with only 6-8% ABV (alcohol by volume, in case you’re wondering). Available in 150ml at $7, $15 for a carafe (500ml), $28 for a large bottle (serves 4), as well as the pictured Makegolli sampler ($35 for 5). For those of you who can’t make up your mind on which to get! The sampler, may include rice wine infused with black raspberry, yucha, mango or strawberry. Selections may vary, but they all taste pretty good anyway! And Koreans believe that Makgeolli slow down one’s ageing process, now that’s a legit reason to drink.
For a more exciting and photogenic experience, you could also opt for the Makgeolli Cocktails! Hong Dae Tripping ($24): Consists of Joo Brew, Grey Goose, Apricot Brandy, Cherry Blossom, Lemon and Rosemary. A ladies drink. Light, with a tinge of acidity. This was indeed refreshing and was one of my favorites of the night! Busan Breeze ($20): Joo Brew, Tanqueray No. 10, Peach Tree, Blue Curacao. Perfectly photogenic, and it can get a little too overwhelming for those who do not drink much, as it can be a little too bitter.
Makgeollis aside, Joo also offers a range of Soju (distilled Korean Rice wine).
Sojurita ($28, for 2-4).
This huge glass is good for 2-4 pax to share, frozen soju-yucha-Cointreau-lemon juice mix with an added slug of an overturned 330ml bottle of Hite beer, so it refills itself with every sip. We were all surprised at how good and smooth this tasted, even those who didn’t like alcohol liked this! Now you know what to order for your alcohol-hatin’ friends.
Of course, at every Korean restaurant, we will be served with Banchan, and in Joo Bar, complimentary house-made potato chips as well!
Banchan, a complimentary first serving, and each refill will be charged at $2. These will vary with the ingredients they have each day!
Anju, food that goes with alcohol! Perfect light snacks for a night out! Baby Eel Paper ($12): Deep-fried baby eels, served with a sprinkling of chili salt and lime zest. Tasted like crispy cuttlefish to me, super addictive! They look quite cute too, frankly.
Another alternative you may want to get is this Tofu Chips with guacamole and kimchi salsa ($12). A house made platter of chips served with the mentioned dips. I personally preferred the kimchi salsa to the guacamole, because it has a tinge of zesty-ness and spice with it, which I thought was very appetizing! The guacamole dip was kinda lacking in taste.
This is my favorite anju, Warm Kimchi with tofu and spam ($14). Because who doesn’t love SPAM! SPAM THE SPAM! This includes kimchi with pork belly inside. How you’re supposed to eat this, is to sandwich the kimchi between the tofu and spam pieces, to create a SPAMMICH! YUM! It’s an aesthetically pleasing dish too!
Prime Pork Pickings, only the BEST Hungarian Mangalitsa pork is used at Joo. Seriously the most succulent and fatty pork belly I’ve tasted.
Slow Roasted Mangalitsa belly ($32) – 200g of pork belly goodness, served with a side of shredded chives seasoned with chili flakes and soy sauce, and a dijon mustard dip.
Here’s a close up of this pork belly, that has been brined with salt, pepper, soju and makgeolli, and steam roasted for 2 hours and 45 minutes. It’s so succulent and good, I floated on cloud nine on a pig. The shredded chives were so well-seasoned that we were all fighting to have the last bit of it. CHIVES, who fights for chives?! It’s that good.
Joo bossam ($28), boiled meat with fermented bean paste and served with yucha vinegar pickled cbbage and spicy radish salad. A boiled version to make you feel slightly healthier. But this is worth every bit of calorie. So juicy and fat!
Besides pork, they do have a selection of other meats as well, like this hand-chopped Korean minced rib steak ($20)! US prime minced rib meat, garlic flakes, soy and chopped nuts. This was so good that Roy actually stood up and exclaimed. He’s gone a little cuckoo since. But this was really amazing, the only qualm that I had, was that it is a little too thin. I wish it was of a thicker chunk. Oh and it is minced rib steak, so do not expect the kind of textures you will get with beef steaks! It’s minced, but still pretty damn good.
Seafood Gochujang Risotto ($24): What a fusion. Korean rice , added with stock and finished with cream and parmesan cheese, topped with fresh shrimp, mussels, clams and squid sauteed with hot pepper paste. So mushy, and I especially loved how tangy this dish was. It made me crave for mouthfuls after mouthfuls.
Kimchi Chicken Potpie ($12). Easily the favorite of the night of everyone present. A classic example of “do not judge a potpie by its appearance”. This seemingly average joe looking potpie, had gold hidden within its golden pastry dome. A kimchi bechamel gravy with chicken tenderloin pieces, celery, carrot, mushrooms, onions and corn. It’s like a chicken stew but 100x better, with the warm creamy goodness within it. We were even discussing about how to replicate this at home using kimchi, because we all would want to have this everyday. A MUST ORDER.
I LOVED Joo Bar, and definitely enjoyed the food served during the media tasting. Even though I’m not exactly a drinker, I surprisingly enjoyed the alcoholic beverages served by Joo, because they were all so yummy and easy to drink. That Sojurita and Hong Dae tripping.. Me likey.
Food wise, Joo bar has definitely set the bar high. Quality ingredients, and quality preparation. It is rare for me to enjoy every dish put on the table from a place, but Joo bar did just that. From the anjus, to the pork belly, risotto and the unforgettable pot pie. We were all blown away. The prices may be a little steep for some of this dishes, but their servings are definitely good to share. What a place for an after-work chill out!
How to get there?
5 Tan Quee Lan Street
Tel: 8138 1628
5.30pm – 12am, daily