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Hai Di Lao, Unusual Chinese Hot Pot Chain to Arcadia

Inside Hai Di Lao, Shanghai.
Inside Hai Di Lao, Shanghai.
Photo: Santo Chino/Flickr

A highly curious new hot pot chain born in Sichuan, with 75 locations in China and Singapore, is opening its first US location in Arcadia this September. Hai Di Lao, which translates to "fishing in the bottom of the sea" in Mandarin, is a tech-savvy, customer service driven enterprise, sort of like the Benihana of hot pot. Abroad, patrons waiting for tables can play board games, use the internet, eat free snacks, or even get a manicure and shoeshine.

Customers order via iPads and the restaurant offers a "cyber" dining room equipped with flat screen tvs and a service that enables businessmen to conduct video chat meetings while dining. The room costs $65 per hour.

Hai Di Lao owner Zhang Yong trains "noodle masters" for about four to six months in the art of stretching balls of dough into noodles by "whipping the center out like a jump rope and rippling and swirling it through the air like the ribbons." (The old Philippe on Melrose offered a less grand performance like this.) Eventually those noodles are dropped into diners' broths.

The restaurant is also known for giving out hair ties to diners with long hair (to prevent hair from getting in soup), hot towels, and eyeglass wipes to clean off steamy lenses. It's a concept that has proven highly successful in China and, while operations will be tweaked for the US market, sounds promising for Arcadia as well.
·Chinese Hot Pot Chain Hai Di Lao Makes Move to U.S. [Wall Street Journal]