Shashlik Re-opens – Say hello to borsch soup, oxtail stew and shaslik skewers again!
Say hello again to that famous Borsch soup, oxtail stew and shaslik skewers from Shashlik!
Shashlik – a restaurant set up in 1986 by 9 Hainanse migrants after their previous workplace (the legendary Troika Russian restaurant) closed down. The jobless cooks, waiters and bartenders decided to name the restaurant Shashlik, a tribute to the famous dish in Troika and their bonds as ‘brothers and sisters’ in the business.
When Shashlik announced in July 2015 that they were closing at the end of the year, there was a sudden rush of diners trying to book a table, including us. Sadly, it was difficult to book a table of 10 because the restaurant was full everyday. But guess what, after the restaurant shut its doors in December, good news came. The two sons of late Captain and Head Waiter, Mr Tan Niap Hin, have taken up the mantle at Shashlik to continue the legacy.
To keep the heritage, the owners re-hired the older workers and majority of them agreed to continue working, so you can expect the signature gruff from them, which is part of the experience here. 76-year-old Mr Foo Sek Chuan still runs the floor; while Madam Tan Kai Buay, who at 78, is still adept in the kitchen and specialises in their signature Egg Millionaire starter, featuring chopped eggs tossed in bacons bits, parmesan and crispy bread crumbs stuffed in halved egg shell.
Walking into the restaurant located at level 6 of Far East Shopping Centre is like turning back the clock. The iconic yellow-mustard colour on all the tablecloths and napkins remains. The waiters’ uniforms remains – white shirt, black bowtie, maroon vests. Mr Foo was setting up the table, arranging the utensils and folding our napkins in front of us. I wanted to tell him that we can just use the napkins, but it was interesting to see how he folds them so swiftly, something he has been doing for the past 30 years.
Starting with appetizers, the Borshch soup ($7) here tasted nothing like the beetroot-heavy Russian soup, more like the classic minestrone. Soup was not as robust and beefy as I wished it should be. Beef chunks were alright, the texture of the softened cabbage leaves, carrot and potato complemented each other. Beef was less beefy but that’s not an issue to me. A dollop of sour cream thickened the soup and added a creamier dimension to its flavour.
Available only on weekends, the Oxtail Stew ($32) was braised for 24 hours, hence the meat was sooooo tender that it melts in your mouth and fall off the bone easily. The husband didn’t quite like the thick, wine reduction beefy and savoury sauce, perhaps he finds it difficult to dip it into the traditional burger buns. But it was robust with rustic flavours.
Here comes the star – Shashlik beef skewers ($32), a dish which the restaurant is named after. The marinated tenderloin has first been grilled and then placed on a hotplate when served, together with Russian salad that was served separately. It doesn’t look too appetizing on first site but it was a different story on first bite. The meat was very tasty and full of beefy flavour, that’s why you don’t even need any sauce. My medium was also just right, mildly bloody on the inside yet retaining the moist and juiciness.
Meals are still served via wood-and-steel pushcarts, and you can still see the old staff providing tableside service. The famous Baked Alaska ($24, serves 2), made with vanilla ice-cream and sponge cake covered with meringue, was still prepared by the table as the staff pushed out a little stage, carefully lighting up the flaming dark rum and pouring it slowly for you to snap some shots. Another worthy dessert that I would like to try the next visit is the Cherry Jubilee as the staff flambéed the cherries in liqueur and butter before sitting it with a blob of ice cream.
I am unable to compare the dishes like those who have dined at Shashlik through the years, but it’s an experience as a younger diner to see the senior waiters and waitresses holding on to a brand dearly for so many years. Food was secondary, being served by them already formed the major part of the experience.
Address: 545 Orchard Rd, Far East Shopping Centre #06-19, Singapore 238882
Phone: +65 6732 6401
Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays 12pm -2.15pm, 6pm-9.15pm. Closed on Mondays
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