Wabar's red curry chicken
About time Korean imports branched out to more than just boybands and kimchi: this beer chain is the latest manifestation of the hallyu wave to arrive in Singapore, and by the looks of it, the establishment is doing its darnedest to not come off as too annoying or smelly (to some).
Nestled on the bend of Tanjong Pagar Road’s post-work watering-hole stretch, the bar is filled with mismatched chairs, minimalist wood panelling and multi-hued glass chandeliers. Upon arrival, two things greeted us immediately, giving us a sense of what was to come: multicoloured stacks of bottled beers given a glow from the neon-lit panels, and K-pop music videos playing non-stop from the flat-screen TVs adorning the walls. But wait: before you turn your back on the none-too-subtle onscreen sight of scantily clad cosmetics endorsers, K-pop will only be occasionally heard here.
It’s a wise move, because this Korean-founded bar has much to offer when it comes to beer. And Wabar does not hide this fact. From the stacked beers at the front of the house to the rows of beers shelved high on the side walls, it screams for our attention. But it wasn’t just ogling the glass bottles that got us off. A long, heavy faux-teak table drew us like that dude being drawn to that chick in Korean dramas. This is no ordinary table, you see; this is a table with a huge hole in it that holds an assortment of ice-cold beer from all over the world. Don’t mind if we do.
A world tour for iron-livered drinkers stretches from the comfy offerings of New Zealand (Speight’s Gold Medal Ale, $13) and Australia (James Boag, $13) to the pleasing Royal Stout ($12) from Denmark. A little closer to home are San Miguel ($12) from the Philippines and Chang ($12) from Thailand, while the Wabar range packaged for the Korean market, is brewed in Germany. Erdinger and Heineken ($11-$15 per glass, or $36 per jug) are on tap for the less adventurous. The range may be wide-reaching, but the ABVs remain mostly modest, ranging from 3.5 per cent to just over 5 per cent. Which can only mean one thing – drink more!
Matching the wide array of drinks is a diner-style menu with both Western and classic Korean fare. The standout feature is the list of pairing suggestions. The König Ludwig Dunkel ($17) – dark and malty, yet still light on the palette – was a fitting recommendation for the Heavy Sausage Combo, five types of meat with a smooth, sweet potato mash and thick onion gravy ($32). The onion-and shaved-carrot-laden Octopus Fry ($34) went well with the Japanese Suntory Premium Malt ($17). It helps that the large plates feed four and are served speedily.
Colourful, casual and cosmopolitan, Wabar morphs from an after-work drinks-and-grub establishment into a pre-party fuel-up station as the night wears on, with house and Top 40 remixes stoking up your party mood. Thankfully limiting K-pop to the TV screens, Wabar sets itself apart from the cookie-cutter drinking dens on the Tanjong Pagar belt. Kieran Nash
Beers $12-$18; whisky $14-$16; main courses $23-$34