Wednesday, May 11, 2016

hotpot/chinese: i recommend HAI DI LAO HOTPOT TAIPEI


No. 12 Songshou Road, 6F
(02) 7743-1855 

MRT: Taipei 101

hours: 11AM - 4:30AM (Yes, 4:30AM. Post clubbing hotpot option)

$$$ (NT$1000+ per person)

website: Haidilao's FB page

kid friendliness: lively atmosphere, with lots of selection and lighter broth options. small kids room in front for pre or post meal waiting 

visit reviewed: 5/9/2016

HaiDiLao is a popular hotpot chain from China that opened up its first Taiwan branch last September. I first heard of it when I saw videos of their noodle dancers (yes, dancing noodle makers) on instagram and four square'd hotspots. Hearing about the long lines from a friend who was a regular of theirs in China and had waited hours to dine at the Taiwan branch, I finally had a chance to check it out along with a travel writer in town who scored reservations. 

Reservations are usually taken on the first of every month for the following month, but I still saw a crowd of people waiting at the entrance for seats. But unlike many restaurants that make you wait, HaiDiLao provides lots of services to distract you- complimentary manicures, massage chairs, a small playroom for kids, and even a costumed dancer. With this concept, Haidilao has opened over 100 branches around the world, including in Los Angeles, Seoul and Singapore. 

Manicure station near the front of the restaurant.

The restaurant space itself is massive, with large sauce stations and view of Xinyi district. Completely packed on a weeknight dinner at 7PM. Reservations are taken 1st of each month for the following month and Taipei's HaiDiLao is open from 11AM to 430AM. Post clubbing hotpot anyone?

Once you're seated, you're given an iPad to order from. They have English and Chinese available, as well as a photo for each menu item. I was a bit confused about how to order things, but the waitress was very helpful in showing how to use the iPad as well as making suggestions for a first time visit. First you choose your soup base- you can opt for one, two or four broths. There's a Delicacy broth (chicken/pork broth), Sichuan spicy broth, tomato broth and mushroom broth, as well as a fish and kelp broth that we didn't choose. Adding each broth has a charge of NT$105-120 per broth.

Half orders are available, which is great if you want to try different things when dining alone or with only one other person, and there's quite a range of choices for meats, seafood, tofu, veggies and offal. I've included the complete iPad menu for Haidilao Taipei at the bottom of the post. We were handed aprons, eye glasses cleaners and was even given a small blanket to use when we asked the server about the chilly air conditioning. 

After the hotpot gets bubbling and you've "sent" your order in, plates of veggies and meat start arriving to the table. Veggies combo (NT$288)

It's a good time to get your sauces when you're waiting for your food to come. The epic sauce bar is THE most varied set up I've ever seen. There are English and Chinese labels for everything, but I started with sesame sauce with scallions and cilantro, and a soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, chili oil, garlic sauce. If you feel overwhelmed, you can ask your server to make a couple for you. In addition to two she had made for my dining partner (one for the tofu and one for the beef she said), she ended up making a new one with fried peanuts, ground beef, chili peppers, cilantro and spooning some of the spicy broth into it. It reminds me of the first time I had mongolian bbq and I didn't quite know how much of each sauce to add to pile of meat and veggies. I also enjoyed the glass noodles and black woodier fungus and there's dessert soups on that table as well.

The menu is equally dizzying with choices. I was happy with what we ordered, though next time I would like to come with more friends to try more meats and dishes. The server cooked some of the things for us in the beginning, but then we were left to fend for ourselves as new tables came in. She piped in the fresh shrimp and cooked the beef and tofu.

Mashed shrimps (NT$180 for half order) I expected this to taste like fish balls, but it tasted like fresh shrimps. Would order this again.

Lao tofu (NT$95) 

Lu rou fan (braised pork rice)

Scallops (half order) NT$160

Then we heard the Kongfu noodle guy before we saw him. He brings his own music and starts to twirl and twist one strand of dough like a gymnast performing a ribbon dance. It's very entertaining and the gravity defying noodle dancing and music catches the attention of the neighboring tables. To me, this is one of the must order dishes at Haidilao, and you can find it on the iPad menu with its own Lao Kongfu noodles icon. Dinner and a show for only US$3. (NT$110)  lol!

And the taste of the noodles were good! Quite bouncy and chewy. Especially with the perfect sauces you've concocted. See the noodle guy in action on my instagram video.

All in all, I would come back to HaiDiLao and so I recommend it to you. When Haidilao first opened in Taipei, the waits were as intense as the meal, in the four hour plus range. I had reservations, so I don't know what wait times are like now, but I would say this is about a one hour wait meal, tops, especially with so many hotpot spots in town. Of course, this is the only one with a guy that will hand pull noodles and dance for you at the same time. How long would you wait for HaiDiLao in Taipei?

Don't forget to save room for your AYCE Haagen Daaz ice cream near the front of the restaurant.

HaiDiLao Taipei's menu


Dk said...

One of the item on the menu.. tender lamb with cum! Gosh

joanh said...

@DK omg! I just noticed that!! It's probably supposed to be cumin 😂