Sai Woo: a new twist on Chinatown

Two veteran Vancouver restaurateurs make their match

Restaurateur Salli Pateman, who launched Sai Woo in Chinatown in March, is drawn to neighbourhoods in transition. In 1994 she started one of Yaletown’s first restaurants, Deniro’s Bistro, later renamed Section (3), closing it in 2012 as the area became too mainstream.

Although she loved the building at 158 West Pender, Pateman was daunted by its structural problems. An archival photo of Sai Woo Chop Suey won her over. “Then I knew that it had been a restaurant for almost 100 years and it had restaurant energy to it,” she says. Chef Douglas Chang, formerly at West and Bambudda, had also fallen in love with the space. “We just had the same feeling about things,” says Pateman, although the menu, which combines local ingredients, regional cuisines and neighbourhood influences, has evolved from the more casual fare she originally envisioned. At the bar, Justin Anello includes ingredients from Chinatown markets in his classic cocktails.

The space has been revived, with original brick walls and refurbished wood floors contrasting with modern Bensen furniture and Lukas Peet lighting. Since the renovation began two years ago, Chinatown has also changed. “It was exciting to be part of an emerging neigh-bourhood, one of our oldest neighbourhoods,” says Pateman.