Having had some time to sit still, I read through several posts from the past few years. Of course, as of the pandemic starting in early 2020, I had not been going to restaurants so that I could blog the experiences. Even when restaurants did open, I ordered food for delivery and takeaway. It didn’t feel the same as going in for proper sit-downs, so my reviews have been scarce. And after getting in travel to compensate for being inside for two years straight, I have slowly added in-house dining to my routine.
Haidilao Hot Pot in Chicago’s South Loop district at 107 E. Cermak Rd. was my first hot pot jaunt in Chicago. A friend chose it as a spot for the second part of our April month-long birthday celebration. I will start off by saying that it was a recommendation that I’m glad she made and one that I will say in advance to others that they should follow through on.
My friend had been frequenting several tea shops in Chinatown and was curious as to the bubble teas. She ordered a mango bubble tea that was bursting with mango. I ordered the brown sugar bubble tea that was nothing short of truth serum. If I didn’t get the fascination with bubble tea, those two set me straight.
For a starter we ordered fried shrimp balls. They could have taken all other appetizers off the menu and left those shrimp balls. The stuffed plump popcorn shrimp in cheese and fried it. If delicious were a word, those balls would be the photo to use for display.
We opted for two soups. One with a tom yum base and one with a mushroom base. We ordered additional ingredients to go into the soups, though. With my friend and me leaning more towards seafood and vegetables, we had a variety of mushrooms, tofu, noodles, shrimp, and scallops to go into the soups. One thing to note is that you cook the soups at the table, which is a fantastic touch for true fellowship among others. Nevertheless, we also got complimentary, various condiments ranging from sauces (e.g., shrimp, ponzu, garlic, etc.) to herbs to nuts that we added to our individual bowls when we ladled in the soups. The tom yum and mushroom bases were already full of flavor, but adding some of the extra ingredients kicked the soups up that much more.
I recommend that you go with a party of at least four or five because there is a lot of eating. This is also not the kind of restaurant where you rush through the feasting. It takes time to savor each sip, slurp, and ahhh. There are several traditional hot pot restaurants throughout Chinatown, but Haidilao Hot Pot seems to stand out. The crowd was rather large when we arrived, but later thinned out. Once word gets out about this hot pot spot, there will be long lines. Get in now.