Korean bars in Singapore: Top watering holes for makgoelli, soju bombs, bokbunjas and more

Kim Jong-Un, Vatos Urban Tacos

These well-known bars are leading the K-wave down our streets and painting the town red

Word is out: Kim Jong-Un will be meeting Donald Trump in Singapore on 12 June. Well, that is if everything goes as planned. While we won’t dive into what issues would be discussed, we’ve rounded up a couple of places that may help Kim feel a little more at ease. After all, it’ll be his first visit to our city-state, and what better way to get acquainted than with Korean bars that also serve comfort (albeit South Korean) food? Summit’s over, it’s time to take to the streets and let your hair down.

Gatherings usually start with beers (Hite and Cass are popular brands in Singapore) and progress into an assortment of poktanju — or bomb shots with soju, a Korean rice liquor that resembles vodka or Japanese shochu) — such as somaek (beer and soju), Red Eye (red bull and soju) or soju watermelon.

Here are our top picks.

Don’t Tell Mama

Don’t Tell Mama is a Korean-inspired bar along Tanjong Pagar Road – our island’s tiny enclave of all things Korean. The restaurant serves comfort (read: greasy) food that’ll bring us to our knees: kimchi fries with soy-glazed chicken and pancakes with beef and green onions or kimchi and pork. If you’re feeling KoMex (that’s Korean-Mexican fusion), there is a salad that comes with meaty bulgogi complimented with a tangy tomato salsa and creamy guacamole. But perhaps the best application of KoMex has to be the drinks. The Beerita — a fruity margarita made with tequila and Hite — a Korean lager, packs quite a punch. As does the Sojurita, a variation of the famed Mexican margarita made with soju instead of tequila.

Don’t Tell Mama
52 Tanjong Pagar Road
Singapore 088473
Tel: +65 6221 2007

Joo Bar

Joo Bar is a restaurant and bar housed in a three-story shophouse in Bugis area. While it serves up a dizzying array of Korean food and beverages, the star attraction is undoubtedly their selection of makgeolli – a sweet unfiltered Korean rice wine, which they brew in-house. Always served cold from the tap, it comes in three different sized carafes. We recommend going for the sampler set that not only comes with the in-house makgeolli but also seasonal makgeolli flavours with wisps of green tea, grape or honey. Joo Bar also has makgeolli cocktails such as the Cloud Berry, a sweet fruity gin cocktail and a riff on the Brazilian favourite Caipirinha with makgeolli and cinnamon syrup.

Joo Bar
5 Tan Quee Lan Street
Singapore 188094
Tel: +65 8138 1628

Kream Beer

At first glance, Kream Beer seems like a lot to handle. Each interior wall is painted a different colour and scattered around the shop on every conceivable surface are plush toys, notes, pictures and posters. Then comes the artificial trees that spread a forest of pink cherry blossoms across the ceiling. However, when it comes to beer, that’s where Kream gets serious. Its signature drink is a smooth Korean draft beer that’s served with a thick head of creamy foam. The bar also serves a few variations of the beer including a frozen version and fruit flavored ones.

Kream Beer
60 Duxton Road
Singapore 089524
Tel: +65 6226 2369 

Vatos Urban Tacos

Whoever thought that you could turn serious food cravings into a business venture? Well, that’s the story of three Korean-American guys who moved from the US to Seoul.

By blending Mexican casual dining with Korea influences, Vatos created KoMex (Korean-Mexican fusion cuisine) that’s become a crazy hot trend in Korea. In Singapore, Vatos dedicates almost half its menu to a selection of staple Mexican cocktails as well as Vatos’ Ritas, the restaurant’s beer-and-cider margarita. In tribute to their KoMex roots, Vatos also makes a makgeolli margarita called – wait for it – Makgeolitas. Get it in a variety of flavours including classic lime or a choice of six other fruit bases.

Vatos Urban Tacos
36 Beach Road
Singapore 189766
Tel: +65 6385 6010

Wabar

Wabar has certainly become a familiar face on Tanjong Pagar Road  — where establishments come and go — being the go-to watering hole for thirsty masses of office workers and Koreans throughout the week. As an offshoot of a Korean franchise known for its extensive menu of craft beers, the Singapore branch ups the ante by adding a wide array of wines and liquors including soju and makgeolli on top of its beer selection. Look out for the popular Watermelon Soju that’s served in half a watermelon that’s been carved out. Don’t miss out on the food though, for most who head to Wabar go for the drinks, but stay for the fried chicken.

Wabar
62/64 Tanjong Pagar Road
Singapore 088483
Tel: +65 6224 7073

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