Not a prank or gag.
Just a stunt (and we suspect a little mischief) on the part of the noodle whisperers at Hai Di Lao.
Hai Di Lao is no ordinary hot pot restaurant. In fact, it’s no ordinary restaurant. Really, it’s no ordinary place.
I can’t think of another restaurant where you can eat with noodles flying over your head.
Or get a manicure and pedicure while waiting in line.
Get this: waiting tables are converted into game tables. And enjoy some milk tea while you’re at it.
Your kids throwing a temper? Let them throw their temper at the kids’ playground. Heading for the washroom? Feel free to take your time and enjoy its amenities including a toothbrush, toothpaste, toothpicks, cotton buds, mouthwash, hand lotion, hair ties, bobby pins, hairspray…oh the few gazillion little things women need.
And don’t be surprised when your personal washroom butler stands right next to you at the sink to pump your soap, hand you a towel, and squeeze a dollop of hand lotion to make sure your hands have just the right moisture content for you to properly enjoy your hot pot. As you walk back to your table, the what seems to be hundreds of restaurant staff, even though are restlessly running about working, never forget to greet you with a smile and hello.
Here’s the menu of what seems like an endless, scroll-for-eternity list. We had to make a decision. For our soup, we decided on the Yin and Yang soup. And for the rest: a potpourri of lamb, beef, tofu, noodles, mushrooms, lotus roots, and green veggies.
Our next task was to mix our own sauces. You could get one of the waitresses to help you, or you could do what we did which was basically dumping a whole lot of different condiments into one little bowl and praying that it’ll taste like a proper sauce. Being the most indecisive person I know, the huge selection really didn’t help. I remember spending a good 10 minutes standing by the counter.
Here, I thought I’d show you the length of our chopsticks which was about 1/3 longer than the normal ones – to make sure the heat from the hot pot doesn’t suck up all the moisture from the hand lotion earlier.
The Yin and Yang soup was a rich chicken broth and a spicy mala broth. The mala soup has a particular kind of spiciness from the Sichuanese peppercorn, chili pepper, and other spices cooked in oil and this is the kind that numbs your tongue.
And here we have come to my favorite part of the Hai Di Lao experience. I kid you not, when our noodle dancer was performing his acrobatics, we could feel the breeze right above our heads!
Thank you Yankee cap-wearing noodlemaster! The la mian was amazing – fat, chewy, and savory! Despite the quick distraction of the noodle acrobatics, we concentrated on the rest of our meal, ordering seconds and thirds. Among the 5 of us, we spent a total of 370 RMB, the equivalent of USD 60 or IDR 730 – decently affordable in my book! I enjoyed the ma la soup to an extent but after a while the numbing caused a strange sensation in the tongue. So for the second half of the meal I finished off with the chicken broth. I would definitely recommend Hai Di Lao for the food and the overall experience!
By the end of our meal, we were stuffed and happy! We decided it was wise to walk back to the hotel instead of hailing a cab, just so the lamb, tofu, and noodles would get a little exercise instead of settling in our stomachs for the rest of the night. Our hotel was a 30-minute walk. It didn’t happen.
HAI DI LAO (Various outlets)
1068 Beijing Xi Lu, 3/F, near Jiangning Lu
Mon – Sun: 11 AM – 3 AM