After what seems like an interminable wait, China’s largest hot pot chain has arrived at Westfield UTC. Now open next to the Zara store, Haidilao is currently operating from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. until May 13, when the restaurant should extend to offer lunch service.
Hailing from the China’s Sichuan province, where hot pot is perhaps the region’s best-known dish, the brand now runs more than 1,500 branches worldwide. Although area residents have been able to purchase packets Haidilao soup bases at local Asian markets, this is the first San Diego location for the chain, which landed in the U.S. in 2013.
Steel yourself to face crowds and long queues as the UTC restaurant settles in. The lobby area features a full cocktail bar and claw machine games, and the chain is known to offer complimentary snacks to guests while they wait. Other amenities include plastic bags to store personal items like masks and cellphones and a plush toy companion if you’re dining alone. Haidilao also has a membership program that allows visitors to rack up points in exchange for prizes and other perks.
With a capacity of nearly 300, the dining room is stacked with tables holding four-section hot pots that can be filled with a selection of soup base flavors, including tomato, mushroom, and Sichuan-style spicy. The restaurant offers a self-serve condiment table and provides tablets for selecting meats, seafood, vegetables, and other ingredients to cook in the boiling broth; order the signature noodles and be treated to a tableside noodle-pulling performance.