Hai Di Lao

Hotpot seems almost a dangerous proposition these days, but don’t let that stop you from heading down to Hai Di Lao. The first overseas branch of the popular Sichuan hotpot chain offers stellar service and affordable grub. We appreciate the little niceties they provide: each diner gets a red apron upon arrival and free manicures are available on-premise. 

The food also doesn’t disappoint with seven savory soup options including the popular yuan-yang double flavor ($18), which gets you a split trough of ma-la and herbal chicken stocks. There’s a comprehensive list of items to dunk into the boiling broth, such as their justifiably famous mashed shrimp ($16)—which is cut into delicate balls at the table by attentive servers—fresh beef tripe ($12) and homemade tofu ($8). 

Don’t leave without trying the handmade noodles ($3) crafted by an expert from China. He pulls and tosses a little nub of dough with great flourish, forming thick ban mian-like noodles right before your eyes—it’s the best show you’ll find in town for just three bucks.

Also hard to beat is their array of sauces and accompaniments. The extensive condiment buffet ($3) includes an umami-rich beef sauce (we love the idea of dipping meat into more meat), potent chive flower paste and crunchy toasted soybeans. Drinks are as simple as you’d want with such straightforward fare, with beers like Tsingtao ($10) and Harbin ($12).

The place is already packed with an eager crowd, which seems to comprise mainly Chinese nationals, but we think a meal here’s worth the wait.

Why spend your midday meals on uninspired hawker or fast food when Clarke Quay offers some of the best Executive Set Lunch promotions in town? Here’s a list of the best lunch promotions at Clarke Quay, from $15-35.