Shashlik to reopen under new owners

Shashlik, which served Russian cuisine, was a popular restaurant in the 1980s and 90s. The old place (above) has been refurbished but the new owners say they are determined to recreate some of the old magic.
Shashlik, which served Russian cuisine, was a popular restaurant in the 1980s and 90s. The old place (above) has been refurbished but the new owners say they are determined to recreate some of the old magic.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Restaurant will be renovated but menu stays mainly the same with old favourites; 8 old staff retained

It was mere coincidence that saved the popular Shashlik restaurant, starting with two friends commiserating over the loss of their favourite childhood dining spot over a drink.

"I was lamenting to my army friend that it was such a shame that we would not get to eat there again, and that surely there must be someone willing to take over the reins," said Mr Lee Say Yeow, 45.

It turned out that his friend was secondary school mates with Mr Alan Tan, 45, the son of one of Shashlik's old guard: Mr Tan Niap Hin, was shareholder and captain of Shashlik until his death in 2013.

 

"So he picked up the phone and called him on the spot, and proposed the idea of taking up ownership of the restaurant."

Mr Alan Tan and brother Derrick, 44, who were already considering buying over the restaurant, banded together with Mr Lee to resurrect the iconic restaurant.

Popular in the 1980s and 90s and famous for its borsch, steak and meat on skewers, the 30-year-old Russian restaurant will reopen next month at its old location in Far East Shopping Centre on Orchard Road, scant months after its shutters went down.

Mr Alan Tan told The Straits Times that he and his brother believed that the restaurant was worth saving because of its long history.

He added that he and his brother had grown up on Shashlik's food and were determined to recreate some of the old magic.

"We take all feedback seriously and we will fine-tune," he said.

Mr Derrick Tan, who has more than 20 years of experience as a corporate chef, will be executive chef at the refurbished restaurant.

Mr Lee said customers can expect to feel right at home at the newly renovated restaurant.

It will have the same look and feel, complete with dishes wheeled out on rickety trolleys by waiters.

The menu will also be largely the same, with old favourites such as cherries jubilee and baked Alaska.

The new owners have also retained the services of eight old staff members.

Mr Lee said he lent his support to the Tan brothers because the restaurant had a special place in his heart. "My parents used to take me to Shashlik, so I practically grew up there," said Mr Lee.

"I did not want to see such an iconic place close down."

Loyal Shashlik customer, Mr David Kong, 57, who went to the restaurant every month said he is looking forward most to the borsch soup and oxtail stew.

"I just hope they don't increase the price," said the businessman with a laugh.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2016, with the headline 'Shashlik to reopen under new owners'. Print Edition | Subscribe