My first Hai Di Lao experience was in Shanghai and it was both a terrifying and eye-opening experience. The taxi driver we got couldn’t read or write so the directions written by our hotel concierge was futile. To make things worse, there were a lot of things I couldn’t pronounce in Mandarin and long story short, my friends and I were asked to get out of the taxi.
After a few google translate initiatives and putting together sentences using my smatter of Mandarin, my friends (one British and the other, Scottish) and I arrived at Hai Di Lao after wandering around in the harsh Shanghai cold. My struggle didn’t end there for the menu was in Chinese and none of the staff could speak English. A phone call to my Mandarin-speaking friend in KL fixed the problem and within 10 minutes, I was tucking into slivers of meats and meatballs cooked in mala and herbal broth.
Hai Di Lao in Singapore is similar to the ones in China – where service is top-notch and food quality, commendable. Jien and I have attempted to dine here twice over the past year but those attempts were unsuccessful. The queue can take up to 2 hours so if you have time to kill, tuck into soft drinks and popcorn or get a manicure while you wait in line for a table.
No waiting was required at Hai Di Lao Clarke Quay as we went there on a Friday afternoon. Like the one in Shanghai, service was good and the staff spoke both good Mandarin and English which is a plus for me. You get an apron to protect your clothes from any food stains, a plastic cover to keep your phone and if you have long hair, a hair band to tie it up.
There are more than 20 sauces to choose from ($4 per head) and you get the chance to mix and match them to create the dipping sauce of your choice. We opted for the mala (Sichuan) and tomato broth to go with the assorted meats and hotpot items we ordered. The mala may look unassuming but it is spicy to a point you’ll sweat. I rather enjoyed the tomato soup, which had a nice balance of sweet, tangy and savoury.
I ordered the Gongfu Mien twice where your noodles are handmade at your table. One of the Hai Di Lao staff will toss and pull your noodles artistically before placing them into the broth. The noodles were good stuff – light yet toothsome with a smooth texture. It went well with the mala broth to a point I ordered another portion just for myself.
Throughout our meal, the waiter made sure our dirty plates were replaced and our drinks were constantly refilled. Not sure if service is this good during peak hours but I certainly enjoyed my time at Hai Di Lao. Our bill came up to about $S150 for three pax – not too shabby if you’re earning in SGD but for those with MYR, you will feel the pinch. :P
Food: 7/10 (non halal)
Verdict: If you’re into Sichuan hotpots, give this a try.
Hai Di Lao (Clarke Quay)
3D River Valley Road,
#02-04 Clarke Quay,
Business hours: 10.30am till 6am daily