When I first stepped onto the location on the 4th floor of Somerset 313 where Hai Di Lao, it was like stepping into a war zone. There were dozens of people sitting around on stools, people running up and down to this women dressed in a chinese waitress uniform. Heck, the restaurant did not even have a reception table. It was just this lone Chinese lady “bouncer” with a clipboard.
Y was late, so she sent me a photo of the wait number slip that she had retrieved a few hours earlier in the afternoon. It was my first time, so I just approached the lady and told her my number. She then guided me to a nearby stool and told me to wait while they got the table ready. This entire time, she was always smiling and bubbly, despite being continuously hassled by customers. Wow.
While seated, suddenly, someone pops up in front of me and hands a food tray filled with several food items. Apparently this is how Hai Di Lao keeps its waiting customers occupied and appeased during the long waits. Wow.
Thanks to Y’s quick thinking, our wait time is only about 20 minutes before we’re called to be seated. It’s like another busy area inside. The moment I’m seated, the waitress assigned to our table asks me for my drink selection, hands me a small ziplock bag to keep my handphone and a lens swipe. Wow.
At this point, I’m stuck. Having never been here before, I don’t really know how to react next. I call Y …
“Babe! you go ahead and order first…”
“Eh, I don’t know what to do. I’ve never been here before…”
“What! you’ve never been here before. Ok you don’t do anything, you wait for me to come…”
So when Y comes, she orders everything in a couple of minutes and explains the menu… Like any hot pot place, Hai Di Lao offers a variety of soups. An interesting feature is that you can order a full portion or half. No issue in ordering certain items like prawns because they will peel the prawns and put them on a stick for you. For the soups, M and Y ordered their usual favourites – mushroom and mala “spicy” soup. We had a lot of half portions just so we could have more variety
Another interesting feature is the sauces… You can mix and match the huge array of sauce they have prepared, but they actually have a staff member on hand who will help you mix specific sauces for various ingredients. Another value add of the restaurant
Also, for my benefit, since it was my first time, they ordered the special “noodle” man that everyone raves about. For a first timer, it’s quite a cool thing, basically the staff has a roll of noodle dough which he lengthens and spins in front of you before snipping and dropping it into the hot pot. It’s quite a show and there we were, four giggly girls, watching, taking picture and videos to capture the moment. Later on, the opposite table also ordered the special “noodle” man, but the visual impact isn’t as great when his back is to us.
In terms of ingredients, Hai Di Lao is like any other hot pot restaurant in Singapore. However, in terms of service, it wins hands down. The servers take a lot of initiative to make sure that your dinner is perfect. We never really had to ask for anything, the servers were continuously checking our drinks, making sure our soups were clear and filled and checking that all our ingredients had arrived. Not once did we see an impatient or irritated huff from them. Guess now I finally know what the hype is all about.
Add: 313 Orchard Road, #04-23/24