Being a fan of this year’s hit Korean drama series: Squid Game; when it was announced that Sai Woo would be hosting their own version and take on the show, I knew I had to go. On this Halloween weekend 2021, the event proved to be extremely popular with fans and tickets quickly selling out. For those who missed it, here is the recap, and the reason why you need to look out for the next event Sai Woo hosts.
Thankfully this is one of the bars that David of @pickydiners and I frequent. So we were able to book a couple of seats at their bar, and together with @misseileensoo prepared to play Korean childhood games like the characters did in the Squid Game series. And seeing as it was Halloween, we of course had to dress up for the occasion.
Dinner was a set menu, $65 For 5 courses with the option to add on specialty drinks. And as you ate and drank, players would be invited to participate in the planned activities: Honeycomb, Gganbu, Ddakji, Red Light Green Light. All of which were included in the meal price, with the possibility to win prizes.
We would try all the featured Squid Games drinks, with the Banana Milk Punch being my favourite. Pineapple Ciroc, yogurt soju, citrus, kiwi sumac bitters, and a bubble gum blue bubble foam topper. Visually it was a master piece, and drink wise it reminded you of childhood with its sweet and creamy banana flavouring. Paired with the games at hand, this was the perfect signature cocktail for this themed event.
The Honey Comb cocktail utilized the same honey comb taffy that the Dalgona game centres around. Omija honey, black and white cardamom, soju, lemon, and honeycomb. Despite what sounds like a sweet drink, this one was mostly tart with tangy notes that made your lips pucker and your mouth salivate.
I liked the Orenji Boricha because taste wise it drank light a clear Terry’s chocolate orange; so much so that I suggested to the bar staff that they ought to bring the cocktail back to help celebrate the winter season to come. Orange oleo, ryec Licor 43, lemon, and barely tea.
And of course, as this is a Korean themed night, there had to be soju. Our flavour of choice was a white grape kept on ice. Though to our testament, the bottle didn’t last long.
The food was just as great as the drink list. Featured dishes prepared with the night’s theme in mind, starting with a shared serving of their Kanpung mushroom salad. Sweet and spicy sautéed mushrooms are the star of this dish. Tossed with greens, goat cheese, and crispy fried rice in a fresh and light vinaigrette.
The Rice Cakes came skewered and dressed with the typical spicy and sweet gojuchang sauce, and then sprinkled over with Parmesan cheese. The highly enjoyable chew of the tteok rice cake paired well with the sweet and crispy fry of the corn fritter. The latter actually ate like chicken texturally, and that is what I thought I had until I started writing this post.
For me, the Squid Sausage was the most memorable. What a clever and unique way to incorporate actual squid into the menu. House chopped sirloin, beansprouts, and sweet potato noodle stuffed in the hollowed out body of a whole squid, then sliced into rings for easy dipping and eating. I really enjoyed the chewy cartilage-like texture of the squid; similar to a dumpling wrapper, but more firm.
The Galbi Meatball Pasta was the table’s favourite. It was sumptuously creamy. Sweet sausage, crisp veggies, chewy mushroom, and plenty of perfectly tender noodles to slurp; all under a thick coating of a mushrooms cream fragranced with truffle. I would go in to Sai Woo just to take this one out.
By the time the Dinner Box came we were adequately full, but were able to pick at what was essentially a Korean tasting platter. The box covered all the Korean favourites, classics, and even the common complimentary sides. Beef bulgogi, japche, Korean fried chicken, potato, beansprouts, kimchi, egg, spinach, zucchini, eggplant, and pickled radish. For those unfamiliar with Korean cuisine, this is the ideal introduction, as everything tasted exactly as expected and together created a healthy full meal in one course.
For dessert we had Hotteok, bready Korean pancake with a red bean filling, dressed in maple syrup for sweetness and served with plenty of black sesame ice cream. I recommend eating this one fast as the ice cream chills the pasty and leaves it harder. Whereas you rather its warm cake-like texture melting the ice cream. Out of the entire five course meals this was my least favourite item, due how special everything else before it was.
When it came down to the actual Squid Games games, tables were pre-set with what you would need to play. Each seating would nominate a player for each game. And the host of the night would announce the starting, with the actual theme music of the show and announcements made over the K-pop tunes playing over head.
Eileen would tackle the Dalgona candy game. Utilizing what she learned from the television series, she licked down the candy disc before cutting out the shape imprinted, with a flimsy needle. Sadly, even with 5 minutes she was quick to crack, literally.
I was able to challenge Chef Han (Sai Woo’s head chef) at DDkaji. Each player takes turns trying to over turn a thickly folded square piece of paper, using another thickly folded square piece of paper. Red versus blue for 10 rounds. I was sadly not successful at this and lost the game to Chef, but luckily not my life. (You will have to watch the TV show to get this).
Utilizing their underground private bar, players willingly tested their ability to run and freeze on the spot with Red Light Green Light. And like the show, players that failed the test were shot. But instead of bullets, Sai Woo used foam darts. This, I am happy to announce, I succeed in and was one of two players that tied for first.
The last game was Gganbu, played amongst your table mates. Players are equipped with 10 marbles a pieces. Each opponent hides either 1, 2, 3, or 4 marbles within their clenched fists. Then take turns guessing if the amount concealed is either Hol – odd or Jaa – even. This continues back and forth until one player loses their marbles literally, and therefore loses the game.
The night as a whole provided a unique dining experience. Like board game night with friends, but it includes a deliciousdinner and one of a kind drinks. I can definitely see such a event returning to this bar/lounge, and other restaurants picking up a similar theme. What a great way to ride a trend and give diners an experience they won’t soon forget. Sai Woo was Halloween this year and I am already looking forward to my next visit.
158 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T3