So last December, we visited Shashlik in a bid to have a meal there before it closed down. Although news reports said that it would close at ‘the end of the year when the lease was up’, by 17 December 2015 it had well and truly shut down.
Tucked away in a corner of Far East Shopping Centre (in itself an old, old building that looks incongruous with the rest of Orchard Road), the closed restaurant was a woebegone sight.
After 29 years! This eatery, almost as famous for its ancient and no-nonsense waitstaff as well as its Russian-Hainanese style food, was a legend in itself. So a long lament rose from many Singaporeans, especially those who had fond memories of dining there through the years.
But before long, we heard that it was up and running again in March 2016!
Apparently, the two sons of former shareholder and restaurant captain Tan Niap Hin (who passed away in 2013) partnered with a new investor (Lee Say Yeow, who is about the same age as Tan’s sons) and revived the restaurant, with a $300,000 makeover to boot.
There are so few things that withstand the sands of time in Singapore, so the nation is glad that this is one more thing that has not be totally buried.
Shashlik (which is Russian for “mutton kebab”) has such rich history too. It was opened by nine waiters, cooks and bartenders who had lost their jobs when Troika (another restaurant, which also served Russian dishes by Hainanese chefs) closed down 30 years ago, with their life savings.
During their bid to buy over the restaurant, Tan’s sons (Alan and Derrick) personally went to visit the remaining shareholder’s families and convinced them to sell the business and hand over the reigns to someone they knew, especially since Derrick had worked in Shashlik’s kitchen previously.
It was truly heartwarming to know that this business will continue in the hands of those who have grown up alongside it.
Finally, we made it down for a weekday lunch in mid-April 2016, and it was wonderful!
We had the signature Borsch soup, which comes with carrots and chunks of beef in a tomato-based broth.
Presenting the Escargots A La Bourguignonne. Piping hot with homemade garlic parsley butter and great to chomp on.
And this was the Chicken Pozharsky of ‘minced chicken breaded and fried’. It doesn’t look like much, but it was yummy.
Beef stroganoff (the hubs chose mash instead of rice) served with cabbage. The beef and mushrooms were delicious.
We didn’t have space for desserts that day, but the Cherry Jubilee and Baked Alaska is always served with table-side flambe, which means that it’s set alight with high flames right in front of your eyes! We will save that for a day when we bring the kids along.
When I was searching for more info on the history of Shashlik, I came across this interesting nugget. Apparently, the row of window seats facing the escalators were once occupied by late Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s father, who would book those tables and peer out of the glass panes to spot his friends arriving. With patrons like that, how can it just close for good like that!
Shashlik is no fancy restaurant with Michelin starred food. But it holds so much history, and I am so glad that it is poised to remain, for at least another 30 years, as its current owners intend.