Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Joo Bar - Stylish, Korean Watering Hole With Makgeolli and Mangalitsa Pork

This was my first time at a makgeolli bar and for the uninitiated, makgeolli is a Korean rice wine and Joo Bar actually house brew all their makgeolli themselves.

Found along the shophouses between Beach Road and Bugis Junction, Joo Bar is a very stylish establishment.

The decor is more than elegant, and though the space may not be ample, the designer has utilised the area well to make it more spacious than it is.

Looking chic and modernistic, it is the perfect place to chill and have some of the delicious Korean brew. Beyond just simple beer/alcohol food, Joo has also come up with some Korean inspired tapas that will go down well with the rice wine.

Makgeolli Sampler

For those who have never tried makgeolli (like me), go for the sampler where a myriad of flavoured makgeolli can be downed. The kosong version is available if you are curious, but for most, the yuzu and lychee flavoured ones will prove popular.

Joo Bossam

Bossam? Well, it's become my bossom friend for sure. The highlight of the evening were a pair of mangalitsa pork dishes that were just awesomely good. The pig hails from Hungary and the quality of the meat was evidently superior to the ones you get from Indo.

This dish is a boiled pork belly paired with a crunchy white yucha kimchi and a spicy radish. Taken together, the rich fatty juice of the pork was perfectly countered by the spicy and sour vegetables. It may looked straightforward but sometimes, simple is the best when you have superb ingredients.

Hand Chopped Ribeye Steak

Yes, it looks like a simple thin looking steak but it was perfectly tenderised from all the hand chopping that went on behind. I particularly enjoyed the seasoning which was just robust enough to power the beautiful protein into an elation of flavours and textures.

Slow Roasted Pork Belly

The other pork belly dish, using the same Hungarian prized pig was equally ravishing. A simple dijon mustard and a spring onion salad was adequate to bring out the natural, slightly salted flavours of the pork belly. Beautifully cooked and presented, it makes for the perfect pairing to the zesty zings of the yuzu mangalitsa babes. Literally.


This cheeky looking picture may seem as if a korean beer bottle has taken too much alcohol and decided to take a dip into another frozen lemon juice pool, but believe me this was a tasty beverage.

The bubbly sensation was somewhat reminiscent of a champagne bubbly, but with the added fruity flavours of a well made lemonade, the overall effect was simply intoxicating in more ways than one.

Elsewhere, the kitchen has ventured into some fusion territory which I did not really care for. The kimchi chicken pot pie seemed dated when compared to the decor of the place, and it tasted that way too.

The risotto was not actually authentic, but uses Korean rice as a substitute to classic Arborio grains and the difference was palpable. Almost shy under an avalanche of parmesan, the cardinal sin of putting tomato/chilli/spicy paste to a risotto-like dish left me underwhelmed as I miss that signature lush and luxurious creaminess/sauce of a properly cooked risotto.

Despite these missteps, the more classic Korean influenced dishes really hit the mark and make this a high watermark for watering holes with great food. The incredibly cool ambiance and great drinks will make this a popular haunt for those seeking to unwind and relax.

By the way, Joo is Korean for alcohol. Well Joo me down for more of that yuzu rice wine and Hungarian pork belly. Pretty please.

Joo Bar
5 Tan Quee Lian Street
(Blink and you might miss the entrance as it is somewhat inconspicuous)

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