Singaporeans must have had enough of bad F&B service, so when Hai Di Lao Hotpot 海底捞火锅 turns up at Clarke Quay with its ridiculously good service, they pack the Sichuan-based restaurant with hour long queues. (Haidilao Reservation number: +65 63378626)
Hai Di Lao is known more for their gimmicks more than their food itself – not that it is any bad. “Have you heard about the hotpot place with FREE manicure service? Oh and FREE fruits and popcorn while you are waiting for a table?”
A 60 minutes wait to get a table during a weekend. Fortunately, you can get a ticket with number and can request to be called once your table is almost ready. If not, play Flappy Bird on the iPad, gorge yourself with longan fruits, or read magazines.
There were only two manicurists on duty and their appointment books looked fully written with names.
While there isn’t any of the shoe-shining, neck massage service that branches in China offer, the enthusiastic service staff would still keep coming to check on you. Plus parents would be happy to know there is a children’s room for your kids to watch cartoons.
Here are 10 more other reasons to visit Hai Di Lao:
1. Soup bases – From chicken, mushroom, tomato, seafood to their ever popular Sichuan pot. My friends found it stomach churning spicy, but I treated it as thrilling as sweat-inducing delicious.
Surprisingly, I did not get thirsty for once after a Chinese hotpot. Does this mean finally no added MSG?
2. Sauces – With more than 20 to choose from. It cost an extra $4 per person (sauces also need to charge?), but the dips are worth it – from ground beef, mushroom sauce, creamy sesame, hoisin, to specially made chill. Top with crunchy peanut, or simply ask the waitress to make you the signature Hai Di Lao dipping sauce bowl.
3. Gongfu mian – Noodles artistically handmade in front of your table. Watch that guy in white tracks flick your noodles to the sky.
4. Beef balls – So fresh and bouncy, and comes with some soup within the balls.
5. Slippery shrimp – A shrimp paste, handmade and squeezed by the waitress into the hotpot with a tube.
6. Drinks – Soya, liang teh or plum available free flow, for $2-$3 per order.
7. Half-portions – Food can be ordered half-portions (eg 4 beef balls instead of 8), suitable for small group diners so that you can try a variety.
8. Interactive menu – Order conveniently through an iPad, with both English and Chinese language options.
9. Service details – Constant refill of drinks and soup, hot towel, a plastic bag to protect the cell phone, a cover for my backpack, an apron you can wear.
10. Opening Hours – Till 3am. Say “Yeah” to late night supper.
The bill came up $50 plus per person, more pricey than usual, about double what you would usually pay for hotpot. Not all the food was worth its money, and Imperial Treasure Steamboat Restaurant may have more impressionable meats.
Hai Di Lao is indeed all about the entire package and experience, and certain satisfying. I am quite willing to pay that $10 extra for the attentive service, and the other $10 for its fresh ingredients and variety. And oh, they are opening at 313 Somerset.
Hai Di Lao Hotpot Restaurant 海底捞火锅
#02-04 Clarke Quay, 3D River Valley Road (the side facing Riverside Point), Tel: +65 6337 8626
(Reservations are encouraged, or you can take a queue ticket)
Opening Hours: 10:30am – 3:00am