was founded in 1994 in China and has more than 900 restaurants in Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Canada, the UK, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia. It finally arrived in Frisco about a year ago to long wait times for those anxious to try out a fancy hot pot dining experience. The initial hype has subsided a bit, so what better time for us to finally get our soup dipping on?
Haidilao offers a unique and fun dining experience ... and a bib.
A Chinese hot pot is similar in many respects to fondue: It’s an interactive dining experience in which the center of table contains a simmering pot of soup into which various raw ingredients such as veggies, meat, seafood, tofu, etc., are placed for quick cooking. The ingredients are sliced thinly to facilitate the fast-cooking process, and the soup can be flavored as well. The cooked items are then usually dipped into some sort of sauce then eaten.
The helpful server presented us with an iPad menu and went over the various soup bases available. The center soup basin can be subdivided into four different bases, which is great for those of us who have trouble making up our minds. We finally decided on a four-flavor hotpot and went with spicy pork bone, classic spicy, mushroom, and Thai tom yum goong. Prices varied but averaged about $5 each. We hit enter on the iPad, and within about five minutes the soup bases were brought to us.
Soup bases (clockwise from top left): spicy pork bone, Thai tom yum goong, mushroom and classic spicy.
Having decided on the soup bases, we moved on to what we’d actually simmer in them. For proteins we opted for chicken, white shrimp and a lean and fatty Angus beef mix. These were all about $10 each. Spinach and broccoli were selected for veggies ($3 each), and vermicelli and dancing noodles rounded out our order. Evidently, the dancing noodles are prepared by a “noodle dancer” who hand-pulls the noodles tableside. Exciting! Until we learned that the noodle dancer had the night off. Oh well. They subbed a small order of noodles gratis to make up for our immense disappointment of not getting to see the noodle dancer. We carried on.
The sauce bar can be daunting, but there are helpful recipes to start you along.
For an additional $1.99, one can make use of the sauce bar, which allows unlimited trips to this sideboard where one can prepare different types of dipping sauces using a large variety of fresh ingredients available, such as chili oil, fresh garlic, cilantro, sriracha sauce, chopped pickled mushrooms, diced celery, and more. They helpfully provide some recipes to aid in the creation of, say, the house special spicy sauce. This is very reminiscent of the sauce stations at Mongolian barbecue places. Some fresh fruit, edamame and porridge are also available at this station.
Hand-crafted dipping sauces. So many choices, so little time.
We prepared a few sauces to the best of our ability and returned to our booth, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the robot that delivers the food to the table. We tried to remove the food ourselves, but our friendly and efficient server took over and laid out the items we’d ordered as the soups came to a simmer. Now, each has the suggested cooking time (anywhere from 20 seconds to three or so minutes), but we no longer had the menu and had to get a refresher on this. Who knew we should have been taking notes earlier on?
Thinly sliced chicken and beef brisket, spinach, vermicelli and broccoli are just some of the options.
The cooking process can be fun and messy, but they thoughtfully provide you with an apron to prevent splash back. The beef and chicken were sliced thin enough that they cooked in under a minute. Likewise, the spinach. The shrimp and broccoli took a bit longer, as did the noodles. The classic spicy base was very spicy indeed, as was the pork bone, but to a lesser extent. The mushroom base had different varieties of whole mushrooms bobbing around, and the tom yum had a couple of shrimp.
White shrimp, which the server will gladly peel for you.
Everything looked beautiful. The server even offered to peel the shrimp for us. We had thoughts of perhaps ordering more items, such as lamb, taro, scallop, or meatballs, but as usual our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We have to go back again, anyway, to see the dancing noodle maker.
Haidilao, 9244 Prestmont Place, Suite 200 (Frisco); 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m. Sunday - Thursday; 11 a.m. - 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday