In a mysterious bar called Demon Tavern, the bartender, Bai Qi (Yu Yan Long), serves customers his special brand of drinks, helping them to solve their issues and move on through a unique method. Famous sommelier Fu Yu (Chen Bai Rong), who lost his sense of taste and therefore his job, finds himself along for the ride.
This little drama is quite the peculiar creature: although it boasts a total of 64 episodes, they’re only 6 minutes each, so it’s an easy watch. Several stories unfold over the course of a few episodes, with new characters coming in that gravitate around the central duo. It’s an original formula that works very well: someone walks into the bar, requests a drink in order to forget their troubles, and walks out maybe not healed just yet, but certainly different from when they walked in. The blend of modern and fantasy settings, which might be confusing at first glance, ultimately lends Order of the Sommelier a charm of its own. An UFO, indeed, but a high-quality one.
One, no, two beautiful bromances!
The first thing to emphasize is, of course, the relationship between Bai Qi and Fu Yu. Hailing from two distinct, if not opposing worlds, they forge a deep “friendship” that supports them from one case to another. A complementary pair, they learn from one another, gradually develop a tacit understanding, and emerge stronger from each experience. In essence, a true delight.
But the pleasure doesn’t stop there, as the series presents us with a second bromance that, although it develops between two supporting characters, is no less powerful. To be frank, these two, in my eyes, truly deserve a drama of their own, given how beautiful their story was. The term “soulmates” has never seemed more fitting than for them, whose hearts appear to beat in harmony from their very first encounter.
Quality Production Values
With a few exceptions, minidramas are often hindered by modest resources, which are reflected, among other things, in the actors’ performances or the quality of special effects. But I was genuinely surprised here by performances that were entirely commendable if not excellent, and by better effects than in some WeTV productions rated S or S+. The design of the demons also proved to be very creative, much more so than the usual horns and red/black makeup in high-budget series. A good example of this is the fish-demon with bubbles constantly coming out of his mouth.
Big thumbs up for the opening credits, too: a duet that blends traditional ballad with Beijing opera.
Any drama that focuses on healing is bound to evoke emotions, and that’s certainly the case here. Every single story is brimming with emotion, while also making sure to end on a note of hope that allows the audience to heal a little as well, but also to end everything on a positive note and make you feel like things will get better. On top of that, romantic love is not the only one that is explored, as the show deals with parental, filial, platonic relationships, too.
All in All…
Order of the Sommelier is a little gem that can be quickly and easily enjoyed, and I really wouldn’t say no to a second season, especially considering the final reveal. It does not leave us on a cliffhanger, thankfully, but I would love to see the main duo reunite for new adventures.
Title: Order of the Sommelier
Starring: Chen Bai Rong (Kenji Chen), Yu Yan Long, Yan Zi Xian, Feng Li Jun, Sun Xue Ning, Yang Chao Wen
Aired: 12/23/2022 to 01/20/2023
Number of episodes: 64 (about 6 minutes each)
Genres: Fantasy, Bromance, LGBTQ+, Friendship
My Rating: ★★★★★