Finally my review for the most popular steamboat restaurant in Singapore now. The first Hai Di Lao restaurant landed in Singapore in December 2012 at Clarke Quay. Coming to a country where steamboat is well loved and basically available everywhere, Hai Di Lao stood out from the competition with a better than 1st class service standards.
This first class service extends to the time you take a wait number. As the restaurant does not take in reservations, all tables are only served to walk in customers only. The usual waiting time during meal times can get as long as 2 – 3 hours at the Vivocity outlet. To help customers past their time, there is a manicure station for customers to beautify their nails.
There is also a kids playground area for parents to leave their kids to play and watch cartoons. The area is fully cushioned and shoe free so there is no worry for your kids getting injured from falling down.
For the other customers, you can simply wait at the tables and chairs provided while being served warm winter melon drink and snacks like prawn crackers. There are also card games and board games available to loan from the counter.
Once your table is ready, the server will show you all the way to the table and you will be introduced to the dedicated server for your table. Your server will first ask you for your preferred drink and subsequently give you an orientation on where to get your sauces and how to order your dishes from the ipad. The outlet at Vivocity is huge with many tables of different sizes catered for different groups of customers.
The sauce buffet counter has at least 20 types of condiments and sauces for choice including unique ones like fermented bean curd sauce and Sichuan chilli. My favourite is the recommended Singaporean version chilli which is a mix between our chicken rice chilli with chinchalok included. The sauce counter also has fresh cherry tomatoes, tangerine, fried peanuts and other light snacks. There are also some dessert choices like bean curd jelly, hot red bean soup, fresh fruits, longan and iced dessert.
You can choose between 2 or 4 types of soup. The price range for 2 types of soup range from $6 to $14. For example: If you take the tomato and pork bone soup like my picture, you will have to pay $7.98 plus $9.98. One of the trick is to order a 4 type of soup pot and fill 2 squares with water which costs $0 and the cost of a tomato soup for the smaller square cost only $4.99 and the pork bone soup only $3.99. This is one tip for customers on a tight budget and since the soup is refillable the only down side is that you can only cook limited food in the small squares at any one time. For impatient people like me who dumps in all my ingredients at once, I usually just go for the half pots.
I did not take many pictures of the food since raw food all looks the same. For me, the different between Hai Di Lao and the rest of the steam boat restaurant is that the food is slightly pricey with a smaller serving. They usually give you the choice to order between half portions and full portions.
The food is generally very fresh and the taste is good so it is still worth the price. They also have some very interesting selections on their menu like dancing noodles which is basically hand pulled noodles done right in front of your eyes.
Once you put in an order for the noodles, your dedicated server will check with you when you want the noodles to be served. Once you are ready, the noodle will bring his dough over and start to pull and stretch the dough right in front of your table. They are so good in it that they do acrobatic stunts with the noodles like flipping the thread like noodle in front of your face or even flipping the noodle an inch from your face. This is a great experience for first timer seeing this and indeed the noodles are very chewy and springy once cooked. This is one of the must order items.
The tomato broth here is the best in my opinion and you can choose between mild, medium and super thick. This is in reference to how strong and thick you want the flavour of the tomato to be and for a tomato fan like me, medium is good enough as the longer the broth boils with your ingredients, it becomes thicker. Any thicker would probably become the western version of tomato soup. There is some magic with the Hai Di Lao tomato broth that makes you come back for more every time. In fact, it is so popular they came out with instant soup base below which is sold at all NTUC, Sheng Siong outlets and Redmart. I use the following to cook my instant noodles to satisfy my cravings.
Address: 1 Harbourfront Walk #03-09 Vivocity, 098585
Operating hours: 10.30 to 6.00 am