Shashlik Restaurant at Far East Shopping Centre to close at year end

Thirty-year-old Shashlik, a restaurant famous for its borsch soup, steaks and meat on skewers, is closing at the end of the year, when the lease on its Far East Shopping Centre premises runs out.
Thirty-year-old Shashlik, a restaurant famous for its borsch soup, steaks and meat on skewers, is closing at the end of the year, when the lease on its Far East Shopping Centre premises runs out. PHOTO: ST FILE

Thirty-year-old Shashlik, a restaurant famous for its borsch soup, steaks and meat on skewers, is closing at the end of the year, when the lease on its Far East Shopping Centre premises runs out.

One of the partners of the restaurant, Ms Jenny Lee, 57, tells The Straits Times that the staff are ageing, it has been difficult to hire staff and business has been slow.

She adds that the owners had considered closing 18 months ago, but were persuaded to stay open by their landlord.

"It's very sad but we have no choice," she says. "We are getting old and are very tired."

The 100-seat restaurant used to be popular in the 1980s and 1990s.

It was set up by nine former employees of Troika, a restaurant in Bras Basah Road popular in the 1970s, but which closed in 1985. The jobless cooks, waiters and bartenders set up Shashlik, named after Troika's signature beef skewers, and regulars such as cabinet ministers and company directors followed them to the new place.

The old school restaurant used to be known for its geriatric Hainanese waiters, some of whom could be curmudgeonly.

In fact, its former captain, the late Tan Niap Hin, worked until he was 83, stopping only because of ill health. He died in 2013 of pneumonia, months after he finally left the job.

Shashlik is one of the few places in Singapore with tableside service. Desserts such as Cherry Jubilee and Baked Alaska would be prepared tableside.

Its waiters could also whip up drinks such as Irish Coffee in front of diners.

Ms Lee says that the owners are not averse to selling the business.

One of the last remaining Hainanese waiters, Mr Foo Sek Chuan, 75, says: "I am happy when regular customers come to dine here and look for me because I am a familiar face.

"But we are old and we need to rest."