Go for the Free Waiting-Room-Fun, Stay for the Hot Pot

Hai Di Lao Hot Pot

This place definitely gets the thumbs up for customer service! What other restaurant cares about it’s clients so much as to actually give them entertainment while waiting for their table?!

Now, I’ll just throw it out there, the reason there is all this entertainment in the “waiting area” is because you can’t make reservations and the wait is often upwards of 45 minutes! But, don’t despair. As soon as you give them your name and party size, you’ll be ushered into the world of what I have dubbed: the Hai Di Lao “pre-game show”.

The Waiting Room Part

Aka: The Pre-Game Show

To pass the time you can chose from an entire shelf of games (MahJong, Cards, Chinese Chess, Go, etc—we decided to play Big 2); you can get your nails painted for FREE (yes I said free)…


…check your email, surf the web, etc…



… get your shoes shined and/or enjoy a Chinese Mask-Changing show! I’ve also heard rumors of shoulder massages (but we didn’t see/know how to request those 😦 ) All this, while waylaying your hunger by eating from a fully stocked snack bar!

Hai-Di-Lao-Snack-BarEven though you’re in the “waiting area”, servers diligently walk around keeping your snack box and drinks filled. Just remember, no matter how hungry you are, don’t fill up on the snack bar! You are here for a real meal after all!

The Hot Pot Part


If you’ve never had Hot Pot, the basic idea is that you:

  • Chose your Hot Pot broth (many times you can even get a “split pot” like we did so that you can have two broth options—we did one spicy and one mushroom/seafood flavoured. They spicy was SPICY and the “mushroom” one was very fishy—hence why I added “seafood”).
  • Chose the veggies/meat/noodles to put inside. You can chose each type of veggie or meat individually and mix and match as you wish, or as your group’s tastes direct.
  • Create your dipping sauce. This place had an (almost) overwhelming array of options for creating your dipping sauce from—everything from garlic, chives, cilantro, soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, hot peppers, and the list goes on as the Chinese translations of names get weirder).
  • Cook your veggies/meat/noodles in the broth of your choice until done.
  • Fish it out with their handy spoons.
  • Dip in your (hopefully awesome) dipping-sauce-concoction.
  • Eat and enjoy!

And never fear! The entertainment provided by Hai Di Lao doesn’t stop when you leave the fun and games in the waiting area (and who knows! maybe they’d even let you bring your fun and games in!).

While eating you can also chose to take part in a choreographed dance with their wait staff…


…or even watch your noodles being “pulled” live table-side, before having them dropped in your hot pot broth.

Overall, I wouldn’t say that the actual food at Hai Di Lao is anything special, but it’s just as good as at many other hot pot places—and their service is excellent. Of course the main reason to go is that the whole meal comes with a “full package” experience that should be had at least once!

Hai Di Lao Hot Pot (海底捞火锅)

Locations: All over Shanghai Check listing for the one closest to you.
Price: ¥80-150

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