Korean-style Chicken at Sai Woo in Vancouver
I was first tempted by the Sai Woo restaurant in Vancouver 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.
Sai Woo had been opened for less than a year when I first darkened their doors. It is the second of name, though, and there was an original Sai Woo on the same site between 1925 and 1959, when it operated as a ‘Chop Suey House’ (as many Chinese restaurants were known back in the day).
The interior appears have to have changed since the Chop Suey days (or so I assume). It is a long, shot-gun narrow sort of place with tables along one side and a large, extended bar dominating the other. The lighting and the décor is all very hip and modern and the final impression I had (including after eating) is that Sai Woo is less a restaurant than it is a trendy nightspot with food service.
The dish you see pictured above appeared on the menu as ‘Korean Fried Chicken’ and was described as ‘Chicken in a fermented chili glaze with a pea shoot salad’. The pea-shoot ‘salad’ turned out to be nothing more than a bed of undressed peas-shoots beneath the chicken, but the overall appearance was nice and the one thing I can say about Sai Woo is that they did good plating jobs on everything I tried there.
Unfortunately, the appearance was not matched by the taste. The Chicken meat itself was dry, stale, and had a rather ‘freezer-burned’ taste, and the glaze was uninteresting. I gathered from the description of this dish as being ‘Korean’ with a ‘fermented’ chili glaze, that Gochujang featured in the preparation, but that didn’t seem to be the case. The glaze was overly sweet, with very little chili heat, and just not very good. Ultimately, the Korean-style Chicken at Sai Woo was little more than a very bad rendition of General Tso’s Chicken, or McNuggets with spicy ketchup.