Sunday, June 05, 2005

Shashlik "Russian" food

This place cracks me up. It's billed as a Russian restaurant in Singapore, but nothing could be further from the truth. The place is run by a bunch of grumpy old Hokkien men (see the guys in the classic red vest and bow tie?) and is more like Hokkien food with a Russian influence than anything. Still, this place is practically an institution in Singapore, always packed with crowds on weekends.

You know why? The food is actually pretty darned good. Yes, indeed, really really good. And it's so ironic since the place is far from authentic, uses the worst substitute for ingredients, and should never be associated with the word "class," but it's just darned good. The namesake meat shashlik comes on a sizzling Chinese platter and is incredibly tender and tasty. I think they must load the food with tons of MSG and meat tenderizer or something. It comes with a very dubious "Russian Salad," which is basically a plate with a raw scallion stem, sliced onions, pickled cabbage, sliced pickles, barely a slice of an egg, tomatoes, cucumbers, and - get this - papaya. But as cheesy as it sounds, it's actually really good. (I like to put the scallion and onion slices on the hot platter for extra taste.)

The starters crack me up too. I've had meat solianka and borsch in Estonia before (so they are supposedly the real deal, even though technically that wasn't Russia), and this place in Singapore serves the most hilarious renditions of it. The meat solianka is actually made with sliced hot dogs. Ha ha ha ha ha!!! But it's still really good in its own right with those Chinese pickled vegetables in it. The borsch does have the authenticity of a dallop of sour cream, but interestingly, it is made with a tomato base rather than beet (in order to give it the signature bright red flavor). And it is still good (especially since I hate beets anyway).

Well, if you go there, go for the laughs, not for true Russian food. But it is darned good. It's so good that once I ordered two main dishes and even went off later for more food (yes, the portions are pretty small too, and it still adds up to a sizeable chunk of change). Don't expect authenticity, friendly service, nor classiness (ha ha - the mass produced hot bread and the wooden push carts crack me up too), but do expect a surprisingly good meal.

I love this place. This is truly a Singaporean institution by every right, and I'm sure there is nowhere else in the world like it.


Anonymous said...

oh this place is fantastic .. i tried the garlic steak once and it was really yum..
i agree with u on the staff ahaha they are a unique bunch ..

oh i love the bakede alaska its so delicious

donaldck said...

FYI - I think the old men are Hainanese.

Anonymous said...

yep the old waiters are Hainanese, not Hokkien! huge difference :-)

Julian Si said...

Yup, very Hainanese, and hey its' an institution in its own right ... and I do like the food :-)

ClearTear said...

yes old school feel restaurant, bit like how hongkongers set up old school western food. This is true blue singapore hainanese western food haha, very unique place. When my mom goes there and chat to them in hainanese, they are so frenly lolz. Love the old people, glad the boss still keep them even though they are old.

ClearTear said...

Towkay said...

I'm too young to remember my times at Troika but do have fond memories of Shaslik. while it's true that the signature Shaslik is just a filet mignon marinated in grand marnier, soy sauce an msg and not an authentic russian brochette. that is missing the point!

the long road from russia to singapore wound through much history with white russians fleeing bolsheviks and ashkenazi jews fleeing nazis to shanghai. the communist takeover in shanghai then further dislodged them to singapore and hong kong. so its been adapted to local tastebuds many times over!

would you call tonkatsu an inauthentic wiener schnitzel?

that said those formative years of eating marinated filet and beef tomato soup has definitely skewed my subconscious when it comes to authentic russian food. my wife has part russian ancestry and we've definitely had arguments over what borscht should taste like.