Hai Di Lao – Lunch

This famous restaurant from China specialises in steamboat and their extraordinary service. Ever since I fell in love with steamboat (read about what I think makes a good steamboat meal here), I’ve been on the lookout for the best place to have it. When I first heard of this famous steamboat chain arriving in Singapore, I’ve wanted to try it badly but was intimidated by the long queues. Apparently, this place is always full and the waiting time for dinner is very long. They take reservations but you may need to book weeks or months in advance for a table. Even with the free entertainment during the wait, I still didn’t find it worthwhile to queue up.

However, I am going to present everyone with the solution: go during lunch hour!

I was here at 1pm, Saturday, no reservations. I got a table immediately, and there were more available too.

As long as you avoid dinner hours (starting at 6pm to 8pm), I’m sure you won’t need to wait too long.

The menu comes in the form of an iPad. However, it is not automatic and you got to hand the iPad over to the staff to have it keyed in after selecting your items. I liked how everything came with pictures to assist in ordering. The menu was entirely in Chinese so the pictures are of great help for those with limited knowledge of the language.

The soup was a no brainer – definitely getting the Ma La Spicy soup ($16.00++), since it’s their specialty. I’ve been on the lookout for the best Ma La steamboat and I think I found it here! It’s better than Imperial Treasure’s. The spices are not too spicy hot, but packed with flavours. I previously mentioned that I only like steamboat when good dipping sauces are available, so that the food blanched in soup would not be too bland, but for this soup, anything that soaks in it will come out full of flavour.

Speaking of dipping sauces, the sauces are provided at a self-service buffet counter along with fruits and a pudding dessert. This comes at a charge of $4.00++/pax. I would say this isn’t necessary, so just do without it if you are getting the Ma La soup.

You can choose to have 2 types of soup in one seating so the other soup we had was the Chicken soup ($20.00++). It was good too, but not extraordinarily good. As we got the split pot, the charged us the higher amount, which is $20.00++ for both soups. The chicken soup comes with pieces of black chicken, some herbal ingredients, mushrooms and fish balls. If you only want 1 soup, I recommend getting the Ma La Spicy soup!

For the food, I like that they offer half portions for most items. This is good when you only have 2 diners. In my opinion, not all the ingredients here are good. Some are really delicious while others are sub par. This was not all we ordered but probably about half the spread. In the foreground is the Hai Di Lai flavoured beef ($16.00++) which they recommended as their speciality. The staff told us that even when cooked for long, it will still remain tender. Indeed, it was tender and not a bad recommendation.

Kurobuta Pork – $16.00++

I am not sure what part of the pig this pork is, but whenever I have pork for steamboat, it has to be thinly sliced Kurobuta pork. Always order Kurobuta (Black Pig). Cooking this in the Ma La soup is the way to go! The meat was very fresh and I highly recommend this.

Beef & Lamb Platter – $11.00++ (half)

Again, the meat is very fresh and thinly sliced. I am not sure what cuts are provided in this platter but I think it’s marbled beef (not sure which type) in the middle, lamb on the left side, and another cut of beef on the right side. Again, everything goes perfect with the Ma La soup.

From the a la carte selection you can choose from various grades of beef. There’s Black Angus beef, US beef, Wagyu beef and the normal kind.


Soy basket – $8.00++ (half)

Among the ingredients in this platter, I liked the crispy beancurd skin and would recommend getting it a la carte.

The tofu was very silky and soft and was good too. The other beancurd was not good and had a weird texture. In fact, I do not think tofu is necessary at all.

The black fungus quite chewy and wasn’t soggy despite soaking up the soups, so I liked that.

Bad was the rice cake (nian gao) which was very weird in my opinion and has a perfume like taste to it. I would not recommend it.

Beef Balls – $7.00++ (half)

This was recommended by the staff but I didn’t like this. It was rather hard and tasteless but perhaps I got the cooking time wrong. Generally, all the balls here wasn’t that good. The fish balls that came with the chicken soup tasted like factory made fish balls and wasn’t impressive. Imperial Treasure has much better balls and dumplings which are hand made fresh!

Meat and Chives Dumplings – $4.00++ (half)

They only have 1 sort of dumplings on their menu and sadly it’s not freshly made, but frozen. I didn’t get to try it but I doubt it would be anything prize worthy.

Better than the other balls and dumplings we had was the Homemade Mashed Prawns ($7.00++/ half), which was like a prawn paste to create fresh prawn balls. This was much better than all other balls and dumplings and is the only one I would recommend trying. Not only is the paste fresh, the ingredients used was notably fresh too as the resulting prawn ball was crunchy and chewy, not mushy and soggy. They do have other types of mashed meat pastes to choose from so perhaps those could be good too. I’ll try next time.

Crown Daisy – $6.00++

A portion of the steamboat favourite vegetable, locally known as Tang-O, costs $6.00++ and is priced on par with other restaurants I’ve been to. Vegetables at steamboat restaurants (or rather, ANY Chinese restaurant) are always overpriced, so you just have to deal with it.

Handmade Noodles – $3.00++

If you order this item, you are in for a show. The whole act is longer than the duration of my video and was quite interesting.

Overall, the price is lower than Imperial Treasure’s and I think it was worth it. The quality of the meat I got was good and the portion was substantial. If Ma La soup and good meat is your primary concern (which happens to be mine!), I would say this is the best bet. The soup is the best I’ve tried and the Kurobuta pork and beef & lamb platter has quality comparable to Imperial Treasure’s. However, if good dumplings and balls in your steamboat is one of your priorities, I would recommend you try Imperial Treasure instead.

*****

Ambiance: 7.5/10

Food: 8/10

Value: 7.5/10

Overall: One of the best steamboat experiences I’ve had and definitely win hands down for spicy Ma La steamboat!

*****

Hai Di Lao

3D River Valley Road

#02-02 Clarke Quay

Singapore 179023

Tel: 6337 8626/6337 8627

*****

Daily: 10:30am – 3:00am

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