Tender is thy Meat!
A good friend told me once that one of the best beef steaks to be had in Orchard Road is at this Russian-style Hainanese restaurant at Far East Shopping Centre. For those in the know, yes, he was referring to the Shashlik Restaurant. Unfortunately, other than waxing lyrical about the shashlik, he failed to give me the heads up on the restaurant itself.
Do not confuse the old and badly in need of a refurbishment Far East Shopping Centre (which is after Liat Tower and next to the Hilton Hotel) with the refurbished and hip Far East Plaza (the latter being next to the Grand Hyatt Hotel). Exiting from the lift on the 6th floor of FE SCtre onto a nondescript lift lobby with doors at both ends, I begin to wonder whether I had the right place..... exited doors and went down corridor (with offices?) and yes, right in a corner is the signboard above a pair of wooden doors.
Hubby and I were seated at a table right next to the main door (and we considered ourselves lucky since we had not made reservations and the place was packed). Immediately, we felt as if we had entered a 'time warp'. The entire interior of this place (I cannot bring myself to call it 'decor'), from the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the dim lights, the wooden bar counter with rows of liqueur bottles, the tacky table vases with plastic/nylon flowers, right down to the wooden two-tier trolleys which the service staff use to serve food as well as clear plates, is trapped in 70's mode. Had it been a new establishment done up in a 70's style, it would have been quaint. If you're a baby-boomer and have gone thru' this era, come over for a bit of nostalgia at a place where time has stood still. *Sigh*, even the service staff are from that era, I don't think I saw anyone below the age of 40 yrs - so, be patient with these uncles (with bowties and maroon vests) and aunties especially when they appear to be hard of hearing and have tunnel vision (they never seem to catch your eye or your hand-wave)!
Despite all that, the food is TRULY delicious. The borsht soup (red beet, white cabbage, beef cubes) is hearty and flavorful although I didn't quite manage to taste any red beet - maybe it has been removed or reduced to suit the local palate.
We also had blinis (wafer-thin pancakes) with caviar, served with a wedge of lemon and a dollop of sour cream by the side - felt very 'russian' dining on this dish!
Shashlik beef fillet (pic at top of post) and pepper steak (pic below) arrived at our table in sizzling style, and after popping a carved chunk into our mouths, the real reason we're here became apparent. The meat is as tender as tender can be, full of flavors. We requested for the fillet and steak to be done medium-rare, and realized that it was the right decision as the sizzling hot plate (on which they're served) will continue to cook the meat right at the table itself.
Dessert was Banana Flambee, which was flambeed next to our table on the wooden trolleys - very dramatic flames, ending in a plate of melting ice-cream surrounded by sliced bananas, less heavy and sinful compared to the Bombe Alaska.
Will I come back to the Shashlik? Yes, definitely for its tender beef shashlik, but maybe the next time, I will come prepared with 'sepia'-tinted glasses and bell-bottoms.
545 Orchard Road
#06-19 Far East Shopping Centre