Lately, there has been a surge of Sichuan and shabu (hotpot) places opening in Orange County. HaiDiLao, a China-based Sichuan shabu spot already has a location at Santa Anita Mall in LA, and recently, opened its first OC location at Brea Mall.
My foodie friends and I ventured out for lunch several weeks ago to see what HaiDiLao was all about, and between the five of us, we were able to maneuver through most of the menu.
HaiDiLao is all about the hotpot, but before we move onto the main event, there are several appetizers on the menu — we ordered all five of them.
Edamame ($3.99) is a standard appetizer you will find in almost all Japanese restaurants. These days, Asian fusion restaurants are being creative — like tossing the pods in different flavors to liven them up. At HaiDiLao, it is straightforward – salted, or spicy.
Steamed Egg ($3.99) or chawanmushi is a solid offering with a smooth consistency which I always look for when I order this item. Unlike the traditional chawanmushi where it is dotted with kamaboko, gingko nuts, chicken and shiitake mushrooms, HaiDiLao’s version is unadulterated with little ingredients, but there is mushroom from the spoonful I tasted. It is rather lovely if you like that custard-style of food.
There is Gyoza ($4.99) on the menu, and although I think the kids will absolutely love these, they are your standard dumplings which aren’t terribly memorable by any means.
Should Salmon Sashimi Salad ($4.99) catch your eye in any way, I suggest you quickly move along and omit this dish all together. The chunks of salmon sashimi are fishy and unpleasant on the palate. Needless to say, we left almost the entire plate untouched.
My favorite appetizer is Potato Shrimp ($6.99). These crispy morsels comprise of potato strings wrapped around a shrimp and then quickly deep fried. The shrimp remains tender, with a good snap, while the golden potato on the outside is crispy and flavorful.
Moving on to the hotpot portion of our meal, we first choose a broth from the list: House Spicy, Kombu, Szechuan Spicy (+$3.99), Pork Bone Kimchi, Tonkotsu (there is also Mushroom and a House Special Tomato (+$3.99).
I don’t suggest the Szechuan Spicy as it overwhelms everything you put into the pot. I’m not able to taste the protein or vegetables for that matter. If you like spicy, the Pork Bone Kimchi broth or the House Spicy broth are far better options.
We chose five proteins from the list: Kobe Beef ($14.99/4oz, $17.99/6oz, $21.99/80z); USDA Prime Ribeye ($27.99/4oz, $23.99/6oz, $27.99/8oz); Colorado Lamb Shoulder ($14.99/4oz, $17.99/6oz, $21.99/8oz); Kurobuta All Natural Pork ($9.99/4oz, $12.99/6oz, $17.99/8oz); and Mexican Wild Caught Jumbo Shrimp ($16.99/4oz, $22.99/6oz, $26.99/8oz).
The Kobe Beef and Colorado Lamb Shoulder are great. The USDA Prime Ribeye might catch your eye, but there isn’t much of a difference between the ribeye and Kobe beef, in my opinion, except the ribeye is just a tad fattier.
Then, there’s a matter of dipping sauces. The standards are Sudachi Ponzu and Deep Roasted Sesame Sauce, and for an extra 99 cents, you may also want to try Roasted Garlic, Curry Pineapple, Peanut, or Spicy Roasted Red Onion Sauce. The menu states that these were created by Joachim Splichal of The Patina Group fame which was interesting indeed.
Everyone receives a plate of vegetables which includes bok choy, kale, carrots, tofu, two types of mushrooms: shiitake and enoki, Napa cabbage, and broccoli. You also get a choice of udon or a bowl of rice to pair with the meal.
While HaiDiLao in Brea touts itself as fusion hotpot, a “traditional” location will open at Diamond Jamboree, in Irvine, later this year, which will include ingredients such as blood cubes and offal on the menu. There is no website for the Brea location, but for more information, visit their Facebook Page.
1065 Brea Mall
Brea, CA 92821