Behind ceiling-high, ominous-looking black doors, hides a dimly-lit cozy restaurant; and what in my most humble opinion is Singapore's most well kept secret: Shashlik Restaurant. Shahslik, referring to a form of Shish Kebab most popular in Central Europe, is the only Russian restaurant that's survived the test of time. I don't know when they first started, but I know they've been operating for at least 30 years. To be thriving in such a competitive F&B environment without a strong online/media presence says a lot about Shashlik.
Like any lasting old establishment, aside from price adjustments Shashlik's menu hasn't changed. Neither have their practises nor staff. After being seated, every customer is served one of their legendary soft buns. Warm, buttery, sweet, and pillowy soft, I'd take these home-baked buns over any brioche. No one I know is ever able to stop at one bun. Only the first bun is complimentary though; additional buns are chargeable at $0.50 each.
Russian Coffee ($12++)
An alcoholic hot coffee made with Tia Maria and topped off with whipped cream, this isn't too bad a beverage. What makes it even more interesting is the theatrics in making it. The staff prepares the beverage live in front of you, and that's really pretty cool.
Generous chunks of beef and vegetables make this meaty tomato-based soup a delightful appetizer. Tangy and slightly creamy from the sour cream, it's very much like a carnivorous minestrone.
1 Dozen Escargots ($26++)
While escargots are increasingly featured on restaurant menus, Shashlik dishes up what must be the best escargots in town. I've tried so many, but I've never had one as flavourful as Shashilik's. Baked with copius amounts of butter and aromatic herbs, the succulent snails have a slight crisp on the outside. Seasoned perfectly the juices in each shell are absolultely slurp-worthy.
If there is one thing the restaurant is widely recognized for, it's their steaks. The Chateaubriand for one is an excellent exampe. Meant to be shared between 2, the steak is topped off with a mushroom sauce and served on a hot plate with vegetables and wedges, together with coleslaw on the side. Beautifully seared, the steak is well seasoned, lean yet tender. It's always slightly undercooked when served to compensate for further cooking on the hot plate. There may be one to many "Bests" in this posts, but given the price and quality of Shashlik's steaks I gotta say they make one of the best steaks in town.
Their side of coleslaw is mayonnaise-free, and an extremely delicious light complement to the steak.
Shashlik of Beef ($29++)
Staying true to its origins as a Shish Kebab, their signature "Shashlik of _____" sees the chosen meat/seafood grilled on a skewer, which is then brought to your table and plated onto a hot plate. An absolutely foolproof choice that showcases the simple yet delicious fare that makes up Shashlik.
Baked Alaska ($20++)
Essentially an ice cream cake with some fruit cocktail and whipped cream, the theatrics of setting the cake 'on fire' makes this an absolutely delightful dish to order. The flaming alcohol gives the cold and sweet cake a slight charred crisp on the top. It's a simple yet spectacular way to end any dinner.
That a restaurant can last for decades in Singapore is a testament to it's quality. And as Shashlik Restaurant has always been passed on by word of mouth, or across generations, I believe it will continue to remain the hidden gem that my parents introduced me to, and that I will take my children to.
545 Orchard Road
#06-19 Far East Shopping Centre
Tuesdays to Sundays: 12pm-2.15pm; 6.30pm-9.15pm
Closed on Mondays