After years of hype surrounding the (in)famous queues at Hai Di Lao, Sean and I finally decided to hit the Plaza Singapura joint after work one day. It was about 1030pm and still, it was an hour’s wait. Thank goodness we could make a call to reserve a table, otherwise it’ll be an hour of waiting outside the restaurant.
For those with time to kill, you can busy yourself folding paper stars, solving a Rubic’s Cube and even getting a manicure. Or, you can snack on these before your actual meal.
So, what’s the big deal about this place? I’d say, it all comes down to exceptional service. Given the dismal standards in Singapore, this place shines like a blinding beacon of passionate staff and a fantastic work culture. Everyone who served us that night was super enthusiastic, attentive and friendly. It was such a treat.
Overall: ★★★★1/2 Fresh ingredients, delicious food, exceptional service.
We were given hot towels the minute we sat down, wet wipes to clean our glasses, served warm tea, brought aprons, plastic phone covers, and snacks to start. Everything was explained to us in such detail, and our server was constantly fussing on us (in a good way) we felt so taken care of!
But of course, when it comes to the food, Hai Di Lao is famous for its soups, particularly this one on the top right — their Tomato Soup.
You can choose up to four soup bases you like, and that alone could come up to about $20-$30 depending which type and how many you choose. Being first-timers, we went with four choices — (Clockwise from top left) The Chicken Soup, Tomato Soup, Seafood Soup, and Sichuan Soup. You can adjust the strength of flavour and spiciness for each of them. And my favourite has got to be the wholesome Chicken Soup. It’s got a great herbal flavour to it that’s incredibly addictive. The Tomato and Sichuan are super appetising so definitely give those a try too!
We also ordered some seafood like prawns, HUGE mussels, blood cockles and even frog legs! I’d say don’t bother with the beef, because they used tenderiser or something and it’s super soft and mushy which i think really ruins the meat. But if that’s your thing, then beef would go great in a hotpot. As did the pig’s liver which was super fresh and excellent!
Again, a stellar example of great service is the fact that they offer to de-shell all your mussels, prawns and cockles for you at your table.
And yet another highlight is the buffet of sauces and condiments.
You could choose from all your favourite sauces like Korean Barbecue, Dried Chilli, Bean Paste, Sesame, Peanut Sauce and all kinds of toppings. Our lovely server even mixed a special combination for us that he said goes great with the mussels. And it DID. We were thoroughly impressed.
It’s in the little things. Even having small contraptions like these really made the hotpot so much more enjoyable. This metal stand allows you to cook your livers and meats without your hand cramping up or getting burnt. Simple but ingenious! It makes you wonder why no one else had thought of using it in steamboat restaurants till now.
And one of the most fascinating and super entertaining parts of the meal is watching this Dancing Noodle being served. This server literally stretched out a small piece of dough into super chewy, delicious noodles by swinging it around rhythmically before slicing it up to your desired thickness.
The food was delicious and very fresh, but the real takeaway for me was the exceptional service where every single part of the team goes the extra mile. Harvard Business Review apparently did a case study of Hai Di Lao’s corporate culture and it’s definitely a fascinating read.
I’ve always been slightly skeptical of hype, but i’d say Hai Di Lao deserves every good review it gets. Just take my money already.
Hai Di Lao Hot Pot (Plaza Singapura)
Address: Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road, #04-01/20, 238839
Phone: 6250 0990