Yin yang pot
I've never been hot about steamboat (火锅/hotpot/fondue) until Fei brought us to lunch at 海底捞 (Sichuan Haidilao). Ever since that, I started looking forward to my next steamboat meal and realising that I wasn't alone, we lunched there again this afternoon.
What's so special about this steamboat restaurant? Without hesitation I'll tell you that it's the service. Yes, it's possible to have service in China. This restaurant positively sizzles with it. Though of course it comes with a price. I've brought my driver to lunch there on another occasion and according to him a meal at Haidilao costs at least 50% more than a similar one (with less service, of course) that he and his family would go for.
From the moment you step out of your car and walk towards the building housing the eating place, there would be someone waiting, "Do you happen to want to lunch at Haidilao?" Reply in the positive and you would be ushered to the private lift that would bring you directly to the restaurant and be greeted by a hostess.
At your table you would get a hot towel (that would be changed any time you want a new one), an apron, a cover for your jacket and bag, an elastic band for your hair (if you don't have one)...You order your food, your drinks (free-flow and served), specify if you want someone to cook for you, and you would always be checked on to see if you needed anything else, if the heat was too strong or not enough etc.
There would be a station filled with cold appetisers and a wide choice of sauces that you could mix yourself (and it's cleaned all the time by the staff), noodles would be prepared and pulled right in front of you, plates changed throughout the meal...The menu is quite varied and the prices reasonable. I love their special beef (that remains tender even after a long time in the pot), prawn balls and fried bean curd sticks.
Spoilt for choice
Cleaning and refilling the sauce station
You need to go to the toilet? It's very clean for a Chinese restaurant because there is someone cleaning it all the time. Need a sanitary napkin? Just ask. There may even be staff waiting to turn on the tap for you, provide you with a towel, hand cream, tooth pick, chewing gum etc etc.
Chillies and oil!
Their 麻辣 soup base was one of the best I've tried, so strong and hot Fei had to eat pop corn (courtesy of the house, of course) to quench the fire. Feel that maybe the meal may be too hot for your system? They would make flower tea for you to balance things up.
Division of labour is the way this restaurant works. There is someone for every task. There are currently 10 restaurants in Shanghai but we usually go to the one in Pudong. You can order steamboat to be delivered to your house, by the way. Or buy one of their soup bases online. On 淘宝, of course.
Tel : 021 38713936