Shanghai: Hai Di Lao (海底撈)

Duo soup base
Duo soup base

I finally got to try out this very famous hot pot chain from China during one of my impromptu business trips to Shanghai. It was the last night of our week long stay in Shanghai and I really want to try it out before leaving. Finishing work around 730pm, DC grudgingly obliged. Our colleagues from the local office informed us that Hai Di Lao (HDL for short) also provide delivery services, so that customers can eat from the comfort of their home. WOW. Now that’s new. DC declared that we have to do that. After browsing through their website and taking notes of the dishes we wanted to order, DC called their hotline and attempted to order in his halting and exceedingly bad Mandarin (with us giggling in the background).  To the call operator’s credit, he did not laugh at all. When the call operator found out that we were in a hotel instead of a household, he advised that we check with the hotel first before making the order.

Exasperated, DC called up Grand Hyatt and tried to explain the situation. Unfortunately, the hotel staff sternly advised to we eat at the restaurant instead. Oh well. All that effort to order food went to naught. Our attempt to take a cab to the nearest HDL failed as the queue was quite long and not moving at all. Left with no choice, we walked. The weather at night was chilly so it was quite a comfortable 20 minute walk. We reached at about 930pm and there were still no seats available. We sat on the comfy lounge sofa and tried to connect to the lousy wifi available. There were several activities available for customers to while their time away including shoe shining and nail painting. Our table was ready after 15 minutes. We ordered quite a fair bit as DC can really eat. Dipping sauces are displayed buffet style and there were every type available from Sichuan chilli oil to satay sauce, sesame to soy. There are also condiments like minced garlic and spring onions. We chose their signature spicy soup base and a non-spicy one. The spicy one was clearly the winner as the soup was fragrant and packs enough heat but not crazy spicy.

Stuff here are generally ok.
Stuff here are generally ok.

Given the prices here, do not expect high quality meats. The wagyu beef we ordered was easily the leanest I ever had. Also, I noted that they were not real wagyu. The supposed wagyu beef  is created by injecting animal fat / vegetable oil to stimulate the appearance of marbling. Actually, it is not difficult to spot the difference. Artificial marbling resembles shattered glass with jagged edge like appearance, unlike authentic wagyu beef with more natural looking markings. Tastewise, for the not people with not very sophisticated tastebuds (like me) you may not be able to tell the difference unless both types of beef are placed sided by side. Of course, if you have are used to eat A5 grade wagyu often then you will be able to tell this is distinctly different. To me, I was more concerned whether there are any potential health issues from eating these (I am in China, afterall). DC polished off a larger portion of the dishes ordered and declared this place to be up to his standard.

Fake wagyu beef
Leanest fake wagyu beef

I thought it was only okay, and much preferred the hotpot restaurants back in HK. Maybe it is just the thought of eating in China in general that scares me abit after seeing (too many) horror stories on news. Still don’t understand what the hype is about for HDL place in Singapore. I highly doubt I will bother to queue or go when I am back.


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