Haidilao Hot Pot

Haidilao Hot Pot (海底捞火锅) is a popular chain of Sichuan hot pot (四川麻辣火锅) restaurants in China. Its overseas presence is represented by several outlets in Singapore. Today, we decided to visit the one in VivoCity, the largest shopping mall in the island republic.
Haidilao is best known for its outstanding hospitality. Every customer is treated like a VIP. While waiting for tables, customers are served popcorn, drinks and ice cream. Ladies are given complimentary manicure to a point that some of them are even reluctant to be seated. Once at the dining table, customers are provided aprons, warm towels, screen wipes and protective covers for mobile phone.
Each dining table has a built-in steamboat stove. There is a tablet computer at every table where diners can place their orders electronically. However for first-time customers, it is advisable to ask the server for recommendations. The waiting staff is very friendly and patient, making it a breeze to order food.
Haidilao's signature soup is Sichuan Spicy Soup (麻辣汤). We did not try this because we feared that it will be too spicy. Instead, we went for Twin Soup Base (SGD23.00). This allows us to choose any 2 types of soup. Actually, customers can order 4 types of soup for only SGD1.00 extra; we should have gone for this instead.
The 2 soups that we selected are Chicken Soup (鸡汤) and Tomato Soup (番茄汤). The Chicken Soup contains black chicken, shiitake mushrooms (香菇), tofu and wolfberries (枸杞). The rich soup is so satisfying that we could not refrain from finishing the entire pot at once. Fortunately at Haidilao, soup refills are free of charge. Meanwhile, the Tomato Soup contains fresh tomatoes and is perfect for diners who have an affinity for sweet and tangy flavors.
The stretching of Handmade Noodles (捞派捞面, SGD4.00 per serving) is probably the most eye-catching aspects of Haidilao. While the noodle can be easily prepared in the kitchen, Haidilao deliberate sends the noodle chef to do an elaborate tableside presentation. According to the staff, it takes about a month of practice in order to pull this off flawlessly.
The egg noodle goes well with any soup. Its texture is somewhat similar to pan mee (板面) or Mee Hoon Kueh (面粉粿). However, I feel that the taste is not really impressive when compared to other food items here. Nevertheless, the performance aspect of noodle is still worthwhile for first-time customers.
Most food items at Haidilao are available in half or full portions. Half portions are usually sufficient for 2 persons. We started the meal with Fried Chicken With Cumin (孜然鸡丁, SGD6.00 for half portion). Seasoned with a spicy marinade based on cumin, the chicken is best enjoyed with a non-spicy soup.
An order of Deboned Duck Webs (去骨鸭掌, SGD7.00 for half portion) has roughly 6 pairs of duck feet. This delicacy has a rubbery texture, so it is suitable if you fancy chicken feet or fish maw.
The Pork Belly (五花猪肉片, SGD7.50 for half portion) is mouth-watering indeed. These delectable slices of pork go well with any soup. Just dip them in boiling soup for a very brief duration as the slices are very thin.
Haidilao's Home-Made Tofu Pudding (自制豆花, SGD4.00 for half portion) is supposed to have a "toasty" aroma, but I am not able to perceive this. Overall, the tofu is not really that special; I have tasted better ones before.
Haidilao's menu includes several types of green vegetables. One such example is Crown Daisy (茼蒿, SGD3.50 for half portion). Vegetables are usually added towards the end of the meal to prevent the fragile leaves from disintegrating after prolonged heating.
For SGD4.00 per person, customers can help themselves at the seasoning buffet (自选小料). There are over a dozen types of seasoning ingredients such as chili sauce (特色辣椒酱), barbecue sauce (沙茶酱), fermented bean curd sauce (豆腐乳酱), beef cubes (牛肉末), pickled mustard (榨菜), coriander (香菜), crispy soy beans (酥黄豆) and crushed garlic (蒜泥).
The buffet counter provides mixing instructions for popular condiments like Haidilao Sauce (海底捞味碟), Seafood Sauce (海鲜味碟) and Sesame Sauce (芝麻酱味碟). Ask the server for help if needed. Besides seasoning ingredients, customers who opted for the seasoning buffet can also enjoy free flows of pumpkin porridge (南瓜粥), sweet desserts (糖水), jellies and fruits.
Overall, the food taste at Haidilao is fantastic. Both soups that we selected are tasty to the last drop. We are disappointed that we did not order the signature Sichuan Spicy Soup. Well, there will always be a next time.
Haidilao's table service is truly impeccable. The servers are exceptionally attentive. For instance, one server even offered us warm coats when she noticed that we felt chilly. Haidilao also allows customers to return any food item that is not consumed. Very few restaurants extend such courtesy to customers.
Haidilao is one of the most impressive steamboat restaurants that I have tasted to date. The combination of fantastic food, excellent service and VIP treatment makes our visit particularly memorable. While the price is pretty reasonable to an average Singaporean, the foreign exchange rate makes a meal here pretty hefty to Malaysians. I really hope to see Haidilao expanding to Malaysia soon.

Address: 1 Harbourfront Walk, VivoCity #03-09, Singapore 098585
Contact: +65-6250-7557
Business hours: 10:30am-6:00am

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