Review: The Witch’s Diner (Tving, 2021)

Storyline with spoilers:

Jeong Jin (Nam Ji-hyun) lived with her mother Seo Ae-sook (So Hee-jung), while her father was in ill health at the nursing home. Ae-sook decided to take over a popular restaurant owned by her friend, as her friend promised to leave the restaurant staffs to help Ae-sook. Initially, the restaurant was still doing well, but they soon lost their customers after the chef took long leave. Ae-sook and Jeong-jin then realized Ae-sook’s friend had opened another restaurant opposite them selling the same food, even recruiting all the restaurant staffs from Ae-sook’s, including the chef who took leave claiming to return to his hometown. Jeong-jin and Ae-sook were in debt as the restaurant business was bad. Ae-sook then left to take care of Jeong-ji’s father when his health worsened. Jeong-jin met Jo Hee-ra (Song Ji-hyo) who was willing to take over the restaurant and also allowed Jeong-jin to make a wish. Jeong-jin then made a wish to take revenge on Ae-sook’s friend after eating the food prepared by Hee-ra. Ae-sook’s friend indeed passed away from heart attack the very next day. Jeong-jin had to work with Hee-ra as a price paid for the wish granted.

Lee Gil-yong (Chae Jong-hyeop) was an aspiring track athlete but had suffered serious injury a few years ago. He was newly transferred to a high school as the last chance to enter the national team. At the high school, he reunited with his middle school classmate Yong-jae (Shin Joo-hyeop) who was constantly bullied by Ko Hyun-woo (Baek Sung-chul). Gil-yong tried to stop Hyun-woo from bullying Yong-jae, only caused Hyun-woo to use Yong-jae to take revenge on Gil-yong. As Gil-yong was injured again, he then decided to withdraw from school and gave up being an athlete. Gil-yong went to Hee-ra’s diner to make a wish, not to take revenge on Hyun-woo or to become an athlete, but to stay by Jeong Jin’s side. Hee-ra then recruited Gil-yong as a part-timer at the diner.

Hee-ra was actually a witch who could grant anyone a wish when they ate the food that she had prepared, however, the person who wished would have to pay a price to have their wish granted. Hee-ra also had a supporter Mr. Oh (Ha Do-kwon) who would help Hee-ra take care of all issues including legal or taxes. There was a desperate jobseeker Bae Yoon-ki (Kang Ki-doong) who wished to find a job, as he repeatedly failed interviews, losing out to those with connections to the companies he went for interviews. He readily accepted paying the price with his 2 fingers should his wish be granted. On his way home, he decided to save a lady but lost 2 fingers during the fight. He then found a job at the lady’s father’s company.

There was also an aspiring musical actress Jin Sun-mi (Ahn Eun-jin) who wished for her boyfriend to return to her in exchange for her voice. Her boyfriend had abandoned her for richer girl when he just passed the second round of the civil examination, but got dumped by the richer girl when he failed the third round of the civil examination. Sun-mi then wondered what led her to make the wrong decision. There was also a mother who wished that her son Goo Hyo-sik (Im Won-hee) would get married in exchange for her memories. The mother then suffered from dementia, but also led to her son reunited with his junior who applied to become his mother’s caretaker. Lastly, there was a writer (Han Ji-eun) who wished for an inspiration to write a novel as her deadline to publish was nearing, and ended up writing about the witch’s diner.

Jeong Jin tasted some of the food leftover from Sun-mi’s dish. She then encountered a popular writer Tom Kim (Choi Sung-jae) who expressed his affection for her. They soon dated, but Jeong Jin later found out that Tom actually had a wife and a newly born child. She wanted to terminate the relationship with Tom but he refused, even trespassing into Jeong Jin’s house to threaten her. Gil-yong appeared in time to help Jeong Jin but was accused by Tom for physical violence.  Mr. Oh helped both Gil-yong and Jeong Jin. It was then revealed that Jeong Jin was actually Hee-ra’s birth daughter. Hee-ra was in a relationship with Jeong Jin’s father without knowing that he was married. After they broke up, Hee-ra found that she was pregnant and later gave birth to Jeong Jin, whom she handed to Ae-sook to raise her up. Hee-ra had previously made a wish to revenge on Jeong Jin’s father that his children would suffer before knowing that she was pregnant, therefore Jeong Jin was indirectly cursed due to Hee-ra’s wish. Jeong Jin decided to break the “curse” by making a wish herself, and the price that she had to pay was to become a witch like Hee-ra. She then took over the diner, with Gil-yong studying hard to become a supporter like Mr. Oh to support Jeong Jin, while Hee-ra and Mr. Oh went on a holiday together.

Comments:

This 8-episode web drama was quite easy to watch as we learnt that becoming witches was not only passed down from one generation to the next due to bloodline, but also based on the descendants’ personal choices. The birth secret of Jeong Jin was quite expected as there were hints showing that she had the same abilities as Hee-ra to prepare the dishes. However, I find it quite amusing to watch Song Ji-hyo playing the role of a skilled chef when she was shown not to be that skillful in cooking in Running Man. Nam Ji-hyun and Chae Jong-hyeop looked good together, but I felt that the blooming romance between their characters in the drama seemed kind of deliberate.

This show is probably one of the rare shows that I hope to extend by 1-2 episodes, as I am curious to learn about how Mr. Oh became Hee-ra’s supporter and the possible blunders they made when they were still learning their jobs in the beginning.

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