Hai Di Lao Hot Pot in Singapore
These guys have been on my list of places to go to for a long time...but in China rather than Singapore. See, I read somewhere a while ago that this chain from Sichuan is *the* place to get hot pot in China. And yet somehow I never got the chance to hit it up on any runs up there, so it was fortunate that they decided to open an outlet down here at Clarke Quay last month (3D River Valley Road #02-04, 6337-8626). We finally came over tonight to check it out.
Now, I presumed that the main reason why these guys were so successful in China was because of the quality of the food. And when I kept hearing that the service was one of their most unique selling points too, I assumed that this was a slightly classier venue: perhaps a bit like Tanyoto...or even Ding Wang in Taipei. So it was to my surprise when I arrived to find a rather tacky, gaudy, and plasticky-looking place. Granted, I suppose that I kind of expected that of a place that was known for providing eccentricities like massages, shoe shines, and manicures while you waited for a table. But the massages and shoe shines were not there; instead, it was Chinese chess, checkers, and origami paper alongside a green plastic tray of watermelon slices and caramel popcorn (eek!).
Despite all of that, the hot pot itself was better than I expected, with those rich and thin slices of US beef above being my favorite, as well as some minced shrimp paste thing. I suppose that this was a step up from many of those grimey late night places out there, and having that iPad ordering system at each table actually was of more practical use than it was a gimmick. But if I really want to go upscale (relatively speaking) next time, I'll stick to Tanyoto.