Hai Di Lao Hotpot serves customers from 10.30AM to 6AM. Yes, you read that right. Their waiting room gives free-manicures, eye-wear cleaning, popcorn and fruits. There are rubik’s cubes, cards and board games to kill time till your table is ready. FREE icecreams at the end of your meal. And if none of that entices you enough, they serve, quite possibly, THE BEST HOTPOT experience in Singapore. Okay, well, now that I have your attention, read on!
Located in Singapore’s “holy-land” of good-times, Clarke Quay, Hai Di Lao (HDL) is a delicious dining spot if you are a lover of steamboats. The first time I decided to try it out, it was 9pm and I was given an hour-long wait, which I declined. The night was too young to waste waiting, especially in Singapore, where every other food stall looks promising with epicurean delights. So, couple of days later, I ventured back to HDL – this time at 1am, to be given a 15-minute wait, which I didn’t have the audacity to decline.
If there is ever a fun waiting room, this is it! One could opt to do a 20-minute free manicure or get their eye-wear polished and cleaned. Solve the Rubik’s cube and get discount on your total bill. Order your beer or munch on free caramel popcorn. Play with your tot at the kid’s play area or get busy with puzzles and board games. The restaurant has done a LOT to make sure your waiting time is as entertaining as possible.
Walking in to occupy our table, we were thrilled to see the size of the restaurant unveiling before us. What looked like a relatively tiny space from the street below, turned out to be an expanse of 691 square meters, good to seat 252 customers.
There seemed to be a lot of staff around, paying attention to every table, and every customer seemed to be wonderfully relaxed and relishing the gurgling sounds of their respective hotpots. Saleen, the staff dedicated to our table helped us out with our order selection and soon, I was able to submit the order on the ipad menu.
We went ahead with the 4 soup base hot pot, starring:
Seafood hot pot
Chicken soup hot pot
Local laksa hot pot and
Sichuan spicy hot pot
The meat selection was enough to go berserk over. Amongst other random choices, we included Cumin marinated chicken, sea prawns, black fungus and Hai Di Lao flavored beef in our order.
Soon after the order was given, Saleen came to us with a stack of aprons and zip lock bags. The bags were for our smart phones and luggage so that they were all protected from the splashes of stock and oil from our hotpot. We couldn’t help but appreciate their thoughtfulness.
The hotpot concoctions arrived and smelled magnificent! Each soup had a unique fragrant taste and desirable spice levels, with the Sichuan spicy hot pot ranking first in flavor and spice. Order this only if you have a fair endurance level for spicy food, if not, stick to the equally delicious seafood and local laksa soups. The chicken soup is cooked with black chicken, wolfberry and chinese dates, giving it an aromatic, herbal feel. We dipped our meats and mushrooms in the different soups for about 2-4 minutes depending on the meat and had a lip-smacking culinary experience. Between 3 of us, we shared a 4 soup hot pot with 6 half portions of meats and the bill came to 75 Singapore Dollars. Money very well spent, if you ask me.
We were too stuffed to try it out, but if you can, go for their specialty balls like the ‘urinating beef balls’, which are supposedly epic. Oh, and order the House Made Noodles, which will be made right in front of your table by their noodle-wizard guy, who is an assured entertainment with his acrobatics and expertise. On your way to the exit, snap a quick picture, post it on the Hai Di Lao facebook page and immediately get a print of the photo from the machine at the door. Pick up your icecream cups from the freezer and grab a couple of caramel popcorn boxes, all on the house.
Hai Di Lao has three branches in Singapore – the Clarke Quay one is their first. A must-try place if you like to dip your meat into delicious steam boats and have a guilt-free meal ridden off the MSG essence. Be prepared to wait unless you reserve your table. Or you know what, just wait and have some fun too!
Hai Di Lao: 3D River Valley Road, #02-04, Clarke Quay, Singapore.
Ph: +65 6337 8626/ 6337 8627