One of Seattle’s most highly anticipated fall restaurant openings quietly made its debut over the weekend. After a few days of previews, Hai Di Lao — the wildly popular Chinese hot pot chain known for attentive service with flair — is now welcoming diners, and providing takeout, at its new Pacific Place location, serving boiling broths, flavorful dipping sauces, and a wide selection of meats.
There’s still no website up yet for the restaurant, but there’s a working phone number that’s taking reservations, along with more info about current hours on the official Yelp page. Eater Seattle called and confirmed that dine-in service is available from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily, but reservations are already filling up fast. To-go orders can be submitted on the Asian food delivery app Fantuan during lunch and dinner hours.
Founded in China in 1994, Hai Di Lao has grown to more than 500 locations worldwide, including outposts in Southern California and New York City. Over the years, it’s gained a reputation not just for its popular Sichuan hot pot, but for its over-the-top hospitality. In the past, waiting guests have enjoyed massages, shoe-shines, board games, and manicures, and dinner often involves tableside entertainment, most notably staff that dance while stretching out noodle dough.
The late Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold once described the experience 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 glitzy new addition should fit right into Pacific Place, which is home to the hyped Taiwanese dumpling chain Din Tai Fung a floor above, as well as a brand new remodel to the shopping center. At more than 8,000 square feet and seating for 300, the massive space should help Hai Di Lao accommodate table service during phase two of Washington’s “safe start” plan, which allows dining rooms to be open at 50 percent capacity (as long as people from the same household are seated together).
It remains to be seen whether Hai Di Lao will gain traction for the luxury dining experience it specializes in, though, especially with public health concerns around indoor seating still high. When Eater Seattle called, the restaurant says that many of the amenities, such as massages, were nixed due to COVID measures, but other aspects of the chain’s well-known knack for ostentatious presentation (such as the dancing wait staff) remained.
Takeout has been something the chain has put its own spin on in recent months as well. On the to-go boxes at its Southern California stores, Hai Di Lao has gone so far as to display notes on who prepared the food and their respective temperatures, while in New York, the restaurant offered to not just deliver broths and ingredients, but also cookware as well, including an actual pot, portable stove, and butane fuel. Such service is not available in Seattle yet.
The downtown area around Pacific Place has struggled throughout 2020, as employees from Amazon and other major companies work from home, and so any advantage a restaurant can hold over the competition would be helpful. As has been the case in recent years, Seattle loves its hot pot, welcoming several other international franchises to the area. Now the noodle dancers are ready to put on a show, even if the fanfare is a little more subdued.
- Hai Di Lao [US Official]
- Hai Di Lao Seattle [Yelp]
- Seattle’s Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings of Fall 2020 [ESEA]
- 10 Top Hot Pot Restaurants in the Seattle Area [ESEA]