Korea is beloved for many culinary wonders, and for some unknown reasons you can find countless number of Korean restaurants and bars on the island. I personally think that Joo stands out from the rest with its top notch modern Korean bites and creative drinks hidden within a heritage three-storey shophouse in the heart of Singapore along Tan Quee Lan Street, just minutes away from the busy Bugis Junction and MRT station.
Joo means alcohol in Korean language, and Joo, the bar and restaurant is born by a Singaporean couple Jamie and Kristin Lim who also own and operate EIGHT Korean BBQ and Sticky, an Australian rock candy store in Singapore. The highlight of Joo is its tipple – the signature makgeolli, Singapore’s first house-brewed Korean rice wine produced with organic rice, purified water and absolutely preservative-free. You would be surprised to find that Joo serves the makgeolli on tap, which is an unusual concept but it is likely to the delight of makegeolli fans.
Joo takes it seriously starting from the exteriors to the interiors of its space; the funky drinks to the menu, the food and its presentation, you can easily tell that the owners had put in a lot of effort on the details and craft of Joo‘s concept.
The entrance to Joo is about welcoming you to another dimension, as you will have the temptation to find out what’s behind the glass door. As you enter the glass door, you need to get past a few gatekeepers before getting admitted to the bar-restaurant.
The main Joo bar on the ground floor of the shophouse featuring a selection of whiskeys, wines, champagnes as well as bottled Korean beer Hite. Also available on tap are Hofbrau Original ($13/pint) and Hofbrau Dunkel ($15/pint). In case you are wondering, that is Eddy in the picture, Joo‘s bar manager from Korea, he takes care of all your drinks for the night. There are some seats by the bar, and a couple of smart tables on the main floor.
Along the way leading to the flight of stairs, you traverse through mirrored corridors and a dark hallway with hexagonal copper ceiling lights which appears to be made of Toblerone.
Outdoor seating on the second and third levels is well bathed with natural lighting a wall lined with pretty foliage.
The space in Joo‘s second and third level exudes a contemporary and laid-back vibe with a touch of glam. Black and copper, crystals, mirrors and artisanal glass products and lots and lots of edgy elements.
Don’t be mistaken if you see a beer tap in the washroom, that is actually the handle for the water tap. If you take a closer look, the shape of the tiles on the wall is similar to the conceptualised Joo logo.
Korean drinking culture can be complicated to those new to Korea. If you are drinking with a bunch of Koreans, practicing the culture (learn from the drinking etiquette hand-painted on the wall at Joo) is definitely an experience that is recommended.
Banchan often translated as side dishes are an essential part of any Korean meal, these are offered complimentary to the guest at the table.
Baby Eel Paper ($12) – An addictive deep fried snack served with a sprinkling of chilli salt and lime zest.
Tofu Chips With Guacamole and Kimchi Salsa ($12) – This house made platter of hexagon chips is served with an enticing avocado and cucumber-based duo of dips.
Joo Bossam ($28) – The meat is boiled with doenjang (fermented bean paste) and served with yucha-vinegar-pickled cabbage and spicy radish salad. The Warm Kimchi With Tofu and Spam ($14) is one of the typical Anju food that goes well with alcohol.
Slow Roasted Mangalitsa Belly ($32) – 200g of meat is brined with salt, pepper, soju and makgeolli before it is steam-roasted for over 2 hours, then served with a scrumptious side of shredded chives seasoned with chilli flakes and soy sauce.
Hand-Chopped Korean Minced Rib Steak ($20) using tender US prime meat lightly marinated with garlic, soy, honey and yucha, hand-shaped and then flame-grilled.
Kimchi Chicken Potpie ($12) is one of the hearty dishes to tuck into as the cracking the golden pastry dome unearths a rosy kimchi béchamel gravy studded with chicken tenderloin pieces as well as celery, carrot, mushrooms, onion and corn.
Seafood Gochujiang Risotto ($24) entices with lashings of fresh shrimps, mussels, clams and squid sauteed with hot pepper paste, then added to Korean rice that is prepared the traditional way, by gradually adding stock, and finishing with cream as well as parmesan cheese.
A range of soju (distilled Korean rice wine) in bottles along with soju cocktails – Lime Soju Mojito (featured $12 glass / small jug $22 / $36 large jug) and Grape Soju Mojito are made freshly with lime juice or grapes.
Makegeolli is the oldest alcoholic beverage native to Korean. The fermentation and filtering process for producing makegeolli takes two to three weeks, rendering a milky white, subtly sweet and delicately fizzy beverage, and it is popular among young drinkers who enjoy it in hip makgeolli bars.
For Makgeolli newbies, an ideal choice would be the Makgeolli sampler ($35 for 5) that showcases the home brew and four varying creations such as yucha, peach, lychee, strawberry, mango, black raspberry and more.
The cloudy, light bodied and mild-tasting Makgeolli is approximately 6-8% ABV and best served cold. Each bottle is priced at $7 for 150ml (featured), $15 for a carafe (serves two) and $28 for a large bottle (serves four). Beer-lovers who enjoy Bavarian beer can expect Hofbrau Original ($13/pint) and Hofbrau Dunkel ($15/pint) also available on tap. There is a selection of whiskeys, wines, champagnes as well as bottled Korean beer Hite to enjoy.
A fun alternative is the Yucha Makgeolli Slush (featured $22 small jug / $36 large jug) or Flavoured Makgeolli Slush of the Day (e.g. Mango). Non-alcoholic options such as cold pressed juices ($8), soft drinks and teas are available.
Address: 5 Tan Queen Lan Street Singapore 188094
(Off Bugis Junction)
Tel: (65) 8138-1628
Opening Hours (Daily)
5:30pm to 12 midnight