158 East Pender Street, Vancouver
Date of Visit: July, 2017
I was first tempted by Sai Woo because of their interesting menu. It is clearly Asian inspired, and features some traditional fare such as Cantonese Dried Shrimp Fried Rice, but the majority of the dishes are fusions of ingredients and techniques from both east and west. The place has had some good reviews but, after my visit, I was left a little underwhelmed…
The establishment is very upscale in ambience and décor, featuring lots of bare brick, interesting light fixtures, and sleek tables and chairs. The service, I have to say, despite my general feeling about the meal, was excellent. All the staff were exceptionally helpful and friendly and I was impressed by their smooth professionalism.
The premises are licensed and the bar very well stocked. I stayed with beer myself, but the wine list is pretty decent with many selections being available by the glass.
Taiwan Style Guo Tie – ‘Guo Tie’ is generally rendered in English as ‘pot-stickers’ but these dumplings were not that. The wrapper was not at all crisped and these could easily have been steamed dumplings going by the texture. They were stuffed, according to the menu, with pork belly, garlic chives, mushrooms and ginger, but the ginger and chive was undetectable and the pork was completely dominated by the mushrooms. There was a sauce, composed of fermented chili paste, garlic and mirin, but it wasn’t much different than a commercial plum sauce and didn’t add much. These weren’t bad, exactly, but they weren’t good either.
Korean Fried Chicken – This was described as being chicken in a fermented chili glaze with a pea shoot salad. The salad, as such, was really just a bed of pea shoots beneath large chunks of chicken meat in a mildly spicy sweet glaze, and the result was not much more than a mediocre attempt at the sort of General Tso’s chicken dish you can get anywhere. This might have been alright but the chicken was not only dry, it had a stale, almost ‘freezer-burned’ taste. This selection was not good at all.
Despite the excellent service and the pleasant surroundings, I was not impressed by meal experience. Possibly I didn’t choose the best selections the restaurant has to offer, or maybe it was just a bad night in the kitchen, but I was unimpressed and can only rate the place at a 3 out of 5.