One wildly popular hot pot chain is setting down roots around the area quickly. After opening up its first Seattle location downtown at Pacific Place in September, international hit Hai Di Lao has quietly debuted its newest outpost at Bellevue Pacific Center.
Since opening in China in 1994, the restaurant has built a reputation for its rich broths, extensive dipping options, and entertaining table-side service, which includes staffers dancing with hand-made noodles. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Bellevue restaurant is only open for takeout and delivery right now, with ordering available through third party apps such as GrubHub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash. That’s a bit of a switch from the downtown spot, which has dine-in service available at half capacity and is already a tough reservation to get.
Despite the limitations, hot pot fans will no doubt welcome the chain’s initial Pacific Northwest expansions. The late Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold once described Hai Di Lao as “the Ferrari of Chinese hot pot restaurants” when it made its U.S. debut seven years ago. And Eater critic Robert Siestema discussed the “bewildering number of broths” worth eating on their own in an atmosphere that seemed more like an “adult day care than a restaurant.”
The Eastside already has several great options in the hot pot realm, including The Dolar Shop, Liuyishou, and Swish Swish, which are also extensions of larger international chains, offering a range of different experiences. Little Sheep Mongolian in Bellevue recently switched its branding to Happy Lamb (same ownership group), and is another excellent option. Redmond has the all-you-can-eat, Japanese shabu-shabu hot pot restaurant Shaburina, currently open for takeout and dine-in. But the more, the merrier.