Sai Woo's dining room blends the old and new together seamlessly. The exposed brick walls and original floor mingle with the modern bar, elegant 'button' light fixtures and LED adorned trees. The energy in the room is amazing, music rumbles and tables of 20 something's chat enthusiastically while tables of retirees cheers each other with glasses of red wine.
We start our adventure with their Jade Dragon: muddled strawberries, vodka, lime juice, guava and prosecco. Designed for two and served in a large Chinese vase it is delightfully sweet with the delicious strawberries overpowering the lime juice and guava.
And then the fun really started! Our affable server Julie came bounding over with the first dish she recommended; the fried cauliflower and tofu. I don't usually like cauliflower, but the subtle spice on this dish really makes it pop! I ate more cauliflower at Sai Woo than I've ever eaten before! The tofu, another food on my 'naw list', shared the cauliflower's spice and was similarly delicious.
Halfway through devouring our cauliflower Julie came back with Sai Woo's wok fried famous chicken wings and Vietnamese lemongrass chicken bao. The wings come crisp and layered in fried kale, scallions, challots, ginger and Asian sauce vierge. They are delicious! I am a bao fan and I don't care who knows it. If they made mattresses out of bao I would throw my newly purchased Posturepedic California king in the garbage and buy one. Without hesitation. If you haven't tried it think of bread and then multiply the deliciousness by roughly one billion. The chicken was nicely prepared and the Sriracha mayo was a perfect compliment to the pickled vegetables. Fantastic!
In between courses Julie suggested we try The Anna May and I decided on the Sai Woo Sour. Bombay Sapphire East, Benedictine, ginger syrup, lemon juice and egg white make us the Sai Woo Sour and it strikes the perfect blend between tart and tangy. A strong 9/10 on the cocktail meter! The Anna May, named for an early Chinese pioneer in English cinema, consists of Finlandia vodka, muddled mint and blueberries, lime juice, crème violette and sparkling cava. Blueberries are a super good for a reason and it's not their incredible antioxidant properties, that's a common misconception, it's actually because they overpower and defeat every flavour they're out up against! This drink is blueberry forward and very tasty! Hats off to the bartender for hiding 2 oz of liquor in such a small, flavourful package!
Out came our main courses and did not disappoint: Korean Scallion Pancakes with Korean barbecue pork shoulder, ponzu and kimchi, Szechuan Ginger Beef cooked sous vide with crispy shallots and Chinese vegetables and Cantonese salted fish fried rice. Where to start, where to start... As with parents favouring one child over the other I'm hesitant to state which dish I like the best, but I liked the pancakes, like a lot! Tender and fresh, thin pancakes covered, absolutely covered, in incredible pork shoulder. Get it! Following closely was the Ginger beef. Very closely. It is cooked sous vide for 12 hours and bathed in black vinegar, garlic, Chinese wine and fermented peppers. So nice you'll wish you ordered it twice! The rice dish was the perfect compliment to the other protein dishes and everything disappeared quickly!
Julie suggested we try both of Sai Woo's desserts offerings and who are we to turn down our new best friend? In between time I tested the Woo Cantina because of the name wWoo. El Jimador Tequila, ginger peppercorn sauce, lime juice, egg white and peppercorns. The sting of the tequila is subdued by the tang of the ginger and lime and it all works really well together. 8/10 on the cocktail meter, definitely a must drink! Enjoying my first sip of tequila goodness our nama chocolate and matcha coconut panna cotta arrived. Japanese truffle terrine, Yuzu curd and maldon make up the nama chocolate. Think of fudge crossed with mousse crossed with heaven. Matcha is an acquired taste. One I have yet to acquire, but Jenn wolfed it down like, well, a wolf.
Sai Woo is a feather in Chinatown's cap! Delicious flavours, hip vibe and incredible cocktails. If and when you go ask for Julie and just eat whatever she suggest, you'll thank me!