You can eat all sorts of delicacies here (seahorses, centipedes, spiders, snakes, and etc).
Although worth a visit, I didn't feel like braving the street food this time
(especially after seeing news of all of the fake or poisonous food people try to pass off to make a buck).
So after seeing my fill of weird things, I thought it would be much safer to eat at Hai Di Lao Hot Pot
which is a chain restaurant. It was rated pretty high on TripAdvisor, so I wanted to see what the hype was.
It's really not touristy at all. In fact, the servers didn't speak English and almost all of the patrons were locals.
This particular branch is in the heart of Wanfujing district--right in the building of Prada.
I was very impressed it came with a doorman like hotels.
You take the elevator all the way up to the top most floor (8th) where the restaurant occupies the whole level.
We actually grabbed a number then visited the Night Market. On our return, we were seated inside the waiting area immediately. But as the restaurant was super busy, we still had to wait about 20 mins
(though they gave us free drinks and snacks in the meantime).
- Affordable. We ordered a total of 9 things. Our bill was around 209 CNY (~$33 usd).
- They are opened 24 hours.
They offer free snacks and drinks while you wait and have people that do your nails. There's an area for kids to play too. We were told that locals love to wait because they get so much service and entertainment in the meantime.
- Lots of choices.
You can pick your favorite broth, meat, ingredients, and mix-and-match your own dipping sauces.
- If you order their noodles, they have someone dancing and making it fresh in front of you!
- Amazing service! Our server accidentally dropped a sauce on the customer behind us.
They were making such a fuss (and clearly sounded like she wanted a lot of free stuff). Management was trying to diffuse the situation. Our server kept apologizing a million times to the customer. Yet when he was waiting on us, he didn't let it affect his mood and was super nice and friendly.
He helped us pack our leftovers too which we had a lot of. I really just wanted a box to pack it myself,
but perhaps I come off as helpless that he just insisted to offer help. He spent considerable time with us and scooped up the very last floating vegetable. After settling the bill, my friend went to the restroom outside of the restaurant. I was about to lug all of our bags and leftovers, but our server scooped it up and escorted me all the way outside and pressed the elevator button.
If that is not great service, I really don't know what is.
Michelin starred restaurants should take training from these staff.
- None. But the location at Wangfujing may make it difficult to hail a cab.
[Tip]: If after your meal, you have a hard time catching a cab, the nearest subway station is around 20 mins walk. That is actually faster than trying to hail a cab (especially in the cold). We gave up after 30 mins of frustration and walked to the subway. We were refused by all of the legal cab drivers as they thought the destination was not worth their time or too much of a hassle (we were staying in a boutique hotel inside a narrow alleyway).
Of course, you could take an "illegal cab" who will charge you and arm-and-a-leg and god knows where they will take you to. Though an alternative is to find out the bus numbers as there's a bus stop right near the restaurant.
If I ever return to Beijing, I will definitely return to Hai Di Lao!