Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Singapore Food Blog - Hai Di Lao Hot Pot (海底捞火锅) @ 313 Somerset

Location: Orchard, Central Business District (CBD), Singapore

Note: This post is written base on the dining experience in 313 Somerset branch. Experience may vary from that of other outlets.

Recommended: Ramen (捞面) (SGD4), pork slices (五花猪肉片) (SGD14)


I wouldn't expect that a hot pot restaurant could garner so much support, and wouldn't even dream of finding it located in an upscale mall. Yet Hai Di Lao Hot Pot did just that - locating itself on the top levels of 313 Sommerset, one of the malls along Orchard Road and its legendary queue is testament to the support it garnered.

I only managed to enter this restaurant on my second try. A queue numbered ticket needs to be obtained upon arrival, which the waiter manning the machine will estimate from his long waiting list how long you need to wait before your turn is up. On my first visit we were told to wait for 2 hours, and it was 7 p.m. at that time, which meant we could only dine at 9. The hunger in my stomach had not such patience so we decided to return another time.

On our second visit, we were much earlier, arriving at 5 but still was told to wait for 2 hours. This time we had the patience to wait, and were treated to some pleasant surprises.

What else do you expect from Hai Di Lao Hot Pot? Hot pot of course! We asked for chicken soup and tomato soup (鸡汤番茄锅) (SGD22) as our stock.

A few things to note about waiting for your turn while choosing to dine in Hai Di Lao Hot Pot, which are unofficial observations:

  1. Be early. Really. Be very early. That means before 5 p.m.
  2. Be patient. Even though you are told to wait for 2 hours, that does not mean you need to wait that long. Just be seated and the waiter will keep checking on your group. If everyone appears to be present, the waiter may choose to discreetly move your number up front before large groups, reserved groups who had not appear or those groups which are not fully present. Check with the waiter manning the ticket machine often, and be polite.
  3. Reservation is not king. Be on time, or your table will be taken. And even if you are on time, expect to still wait albeit not as long as unreserved numbers. They reserve your number in the queue, not the table, so that means you are prioritized over those who are waiting when a table is freed up.
  4. Help yourself to their complimentary services. Free flow of fruits and herbal tea is available. They also have a simple manicure and spa for those waiting to relieve you from boredom, but since they are free, it also means they themselves have their own queue. The services are not bad but don't put your expectations too high since they are free and need to cater to many.

I guess the most surprising part is point #4, where you get so much free services without them worrying about you leaving after getting their services. These are provided to relieve you of your boredom, especially when you need to wait so long for your turn. The herbal tea and free fruits are especially helpful in assuaging our already hungry bellies and thirsty passages, although I have to say that the tea borders on cloying.

An iPad menu - modern and stylish, and most importantly, you can take your time to do your pickings and check the total price before you submit the order.

Once our turn was up, we were led through a labyrinthine interior. I only saw from its front waiting area that Hai Di Lao took up the equivalent of three lots, but upon entering I felt that I underestimated its size. It was truly cavernous inside, extending far to the left and right. Most of its tables were large ones, catering for groups of up to 10, and we were settled into the smaller ones, comfortably accommodating our group of 4.

Hai Di Lao's service was truly exemplary, even better than most restaurants. For such a humongous restaurant and large number of diners, getting the attention of a waitress would be difficult if they did not manage their services. What the restaurant did was to fully dedicate this waitress to 4 tables (it used to be 2 tables but lack of manpower changed that), who attend to every request from patrons of these tables.

My own mix and match of spices and sauces - soy sauce, chopped onion stalks, celery and garlic. My wife complained about my breath for a whole day after...

A few observations of mine to prepare diners for what to expect while dining in Hai Di Lao Hot Pot:

  1. Spices and sauces are at the spice bar, and you can mix and match them however you want. You may get some very weird taste if you do that of course. My favorite is to mix chopped onion stalks, celery stalks and garlic, with soy sauce to get things wet.
  2. Start with choosing hot pot stock. Our choice were Chicken Soup and Tomato Soup stock (鸡汤番茄锅) (SGD22), and I particularly love the chicken soup stock. You can request the stock to be refilled anytime the level drops.
  3. Choose your individual items. This is not a buffet, so each item comes with a price next to it.
  4. Most items can be ordered for half its amount. So if you are not sure about whether you like it, just choose a 1/2 portion at 1/2 the price.
  5. Prawns are peeled in front of you. So for prawn lovers who dislike getting dirty, rejoice! The waitress will peel the shell off for you, unless you prefer to do it yourself. The prawn heads can be added to the stock to add a subtle sweetness of seafood to it.
  6. Drinks may not be necessary. This is especially true if you chose Chicken Soup as one of your stock as you may be drinking the stock most of the time. It is truly delicious and not too thick, so it is a suitable replacement for simple beverages, unless you prefer soft drinks.

Our dishes surrounding the hot pot

We ordered quite a number of items, ranging from seafood to meat to veggies, getting ourselves quite full near the end. The Chicken Soup stock earned thumbs up round the table with its sweet taste. The Tomato Soup stock wasn't too bad itself but I personally prefer the former over the latter's sour taste. In the end, we found ourselves sipping so much from this stock that we seldom touch our Herbal Tea (SGD3), which was a little wasted considering that the tea was free flow.

When I got to know that the waitress will peel the prawn shells for us, I was truly surprised by the level of service supplied by Hai Di Lao. For prawn lovers who just doesn't want to keep messing up their hands this would be a boon, and a sign for them to order more prawns!

Waiting area

Front desk

Interior

Another truly surprising treat was the performance from the young men drawing the noodle dough for ramen orders. The boys in white would twirl the long dough into ever lengthening strands with loops and circles, sometimes purposefully floating it past your head, leaving an entertaining performance prior to getting your ramen.



The overall dining experience was satisfactory, and most importantly, the price was not as high as we expected since the bill totaled to SGD150 for the 4 of us. The level of service we received was, as mentioned earlier, exemplary, something which I never expected out of a hot pot restaurant. I guess the only thing stopping me from dining here more often is its famously long queue, but otherwise hai Di Lao Hot Pot earned a very high praise from me.










Environment:         Hot pot in an upscale mall in uptown area
Suitable for:            for family or friends, or for clebration
Food score:             8/10
Food:                           4.5/5.0
Service:                       5.0/5.0
Value:                          4.0/5.0
Ambient:                     3.0/5.0

Operating hours:   (daily) 10.30 a.m. - 3.00 a.m.
Directions:                Disembark at Somerset MRT station and climb upward to level 4. You should be able to see the restaurant being pointed out by their poster.

Website:                    Official homepage of Hai Di Lao Hot Pot
Contact:                    +65 - 6835 7337 (phone) (313 Somerset branch)
E-mail:                       -
Address:                    #04-23/24, 313 Orchard Road, Singapore 238895.









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