The Hungry Bunny •
07 Dec 2014
For the full review, please see http://thehungrybunnie.blogspot.com
If you hate queuing, try to dine over weekday lunch, or anytime after 11pm. Apparently, those times are off-peak, and there's no real need for reservations. Another plus point: free parking over weekday lunch hours!
Because we didn't have to wait for a table, the snack and mani stations weren't opened; there was no need for such freebies to distract us from rumbling tummies. No biggie, I'd take no queue over free snacks any day!
Still, the frills were all there; the rubber hair-ties to tame flyaways, the plastic ziplocks to protect your phones from drips, the microfibre cloth to clean your spectacles, the aprons to maintain your pristine clothing. All complimentary, of course.
And, the stellar service standards blew us away; this was one of those occasions where the hype was totally lived up to. Our waitress was ever so smiley, and always seemed to magically apparate to assist in skimming the scum, or help form those perfectly shaped balls of fish paste or prawn paste, or simply to recommend the must-trys in the mind-boggling array of ingredients on the iPad self-serviced menu.
Service aside, the food was excellent, albeit a smidge pricey considering that there's no cooking involved here. The ingredients were sparkling fresh, and the soup bases, the mala and chicken, were robust and rich in depth. I was never a fan of mala, as I've always found mala hotpots to be overwhelmingly spicy; the numbing chilli obliterated any other flavour.
But, Hai Di Lao's Sichuan Spicy Mala
soup base was addictively good; it was layered and I could actually taste the peppercorns and dried chilli elements grounded in the chicken-and-pork bone base. The Chicken Soup
($22 for split soup hotpot), on the other hand, was sapid with the sweetness of wolfberries, earthy shitakes and oyster mushrooms, and the heady distinctiveness of half a black chicken.
Must trys include:
1) mixed paste - it's like a DIY fish/prawn/shrimp/spinach ball that's ultra fresh and tasty
2) handmade noodle: purely to watch the live show by the noodle master
3) cod fish slice: best fish here IMHO
4) black pork: better than the pork belly
5) US beef slices: nicely marbled, very tender