Hai Di Lao: Sizzling hotpot experience

HDL outside
No queue? Don’t be fooled.

Dinner at 海底捞 (Hai Di Lao) was on our must-do list while in Shanghai. And we wasted no time because that was where we headed immediately after we checked in to our hotel.

After a check with the concierge on the nearest outlet, we were on our way to the Nanjing East Road restaurant.

For the uninitiated, like me before this dinner, Hai Di Lao is a famous hotpot chain in China and has outlets in Singapore too. I was told that it’s expensive in Singapore but more affordable in China.

We knew there would be a queue and may need to wait for an hour or more but we decided to see if somehow, we could get in faster.

HDL waiting area
The waiting area is filled with snacks, drinks and games.

True to prediction, there was a long wait for a table though those waiting were not visible outside the restaurant. There’s a holding room with seats, snacks and drinks for those waiting for tables. And Hai Di Lao even provides Internet access, board games, and shoe polishing and manicure services. Impressive!

The staff offered us a private room for a fee for our large group. As all of us were hungry, we took up the offer — turned out that it was the only room available at that time — and strode right in.

HDL snacks
A snack platter to get us started.

Inside the private room was a table that can comfortably fit 10 persons. A platter of snacks was in the centre — a welcome sight for our hungry troops.

HDL spread
Just some of the meats that we ordered.

We placed our orders and service was surprisingly fast. A large hotpot was set up with our preferred soups — herbal and spicy szechuan — and the dishes came quickly.

A condiments station in the main dining area housed a ton of ingredients to create our own sauces, as well as pomeloes and greens. My combination ended up tasting like satay sauce which went really well with the meats.

The meats and seafood were fresh. The soups were tasty though surprisingly, my preference is the herbal soup. I generally don’t like herbal soup but this tasted more like chicken soup, which is one of my favourites.

As if the food wasn’t enough, there was entertainment in the form of a dancing noodle maker, who stretched the dough till it became strings of noodles.

Our order was more than enough for us and we finished off our meal with a platter of very fresh fruits — it’s orange season and the water melon and longans were fresh and juicy too.

When we settled our bill, we discovered that we had ordered enough to have our room booking fee waived. That’s the real icing to the cake.

I highly recommend Hai Di Lao for the food and experience. If your group is big enough, go for a room if one is available. It’s worth the time and you get privacy as well.


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