The well-loved Russo-Hainanese restaurant was opened in 1985 by a group of colleagues from Troika, a restaurant serving similar cuisine. Shashlik closed in December 2015 but was revived and reopened in March 2016 after a facelift. Though the restaurant received a fresh coat of paint, and new carpeting and furniture, it looks largely the same at its Far East Shopping Centre location. Even better, diners can still taste the old school dishes that made Shashlik the place to be in the 80s and 90s: items like Cherry Jubilee (prepared table-side), shashlik of beef and of course, the signature borscht soup. Don’t miss the original doors to Shashlik’s kitchen at the far end of the restaurant.
Roland Restaurant is the de facto home of the chilli crab. It’s said that Madam Cher Yam Tian, the mother of Roland Lim, the current owner-operator of the restaurant, created the dish after her husband asked her to cook up something creative with the crabs he had caught. The couple then, in 1956, started selling it at their modest eatery by the beach in East Coast. Little did Madam Cher know that many decades later, her creation would eventually become one of the iconic – and some say, national – dishes of Singapore. When at Roland, try other dishes created and popularised by her as well: deep-fried baby squid and you char kway (dough fritters) stuffed with squid paste.
One of the few places in Singapore where one can partake in dim sum the traditional way – selecting the bite-size treats from push carts – Red Star was opened in 1974 by four local chefs who were collectively known as the culinary Heavenly Kings. The decor and layout remains largely unchanged, so dining there can give you a major case of nostalgia. Besides a large variety of dim sum, this restaurant also serves up affordable, authentic Cantonese fare and a good dose of nostalgia with its charmingly aged decor and elderly servers.
Biryani (spiced rice) is the calling card of this grand old dame (said to have been established in 1914), who boasts royalty as part of its long list of loyal customers. The Indian-Muslim restaurant was started by chef M. Abdul Rahman and is now run by his grandson, who still serves up favourites such as chicken Mysore and roti Mariam. The must-try at this North Bridge Road mainstay, of course, is the biryani, which comes in chicken, mutton and fish versions.
5. Lai Wah
Famous for being the birthplace of yu sheng (raw fish salad), a must-have at Chinese New Year celebratory meals in Singapore, Lai Wah was opened in 1963 by Wong Kok Lum together with two of the four culinary Heavenly Kings. Today, the no-frills spot is operated by the descendants of Wong, and besides yu sheng, other must-tries invented at the restaurant include the yam pot with shredded meat and Mandarin stewed chicken.
6. Spring Court
Opened in 1929 by Ho Loke Yee, Spring Court prides itself as being Singapore’s oldest family-run restaurant. Serving what it calls Singapore Chinese Cuisine, it is known for popularising dishes such as roast suckling pig and popiah (fresh spring rolls). Situated in an elegant four-storey heritage shophouse, it is now run by third-generation members of the Ho family.
Possibly the longest-surviving nasi padang (rice with mixed dishes) establishment in Singapore, Warong Nasi Pariaman is well known for its authentic dishes, such as beef rendang (dried beef curry) and ayam bakar (grilled chicken). Set up by Jumrin Isrin in 1948, the restaurant began life as a warong (coffeeshop) before it grew into a full-fledged eating house. He has since retired and passed on the business to his wife and children, who still operate it at Kandahar Street.
– TEXT BY ESTHER AU YONG
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings on 19 June 2017.