by Ling Kang
GENERATIONS of fans cheered – and breathed sighs of relief, we reckon – when Shashlik reopened in early March. To many Singaporeans, the iconic Russian-Hainanese restaurant brings them to a different place and a different time – back to the days when they were dating or what they imagined romance would have been like for their parents and grandparents.
We explore other restaurants and cafes that “take us back”:
Chin Mee Chin Confectionery
If you can ignore the hordes of “millennials”, including this author, texting on Whatsapp or snapping photos with their smartphones, Chin Mee Chin looks like it materialised right out of a post-war era drama. My mother used to bring me here when I was younger. She always remarked that not many places in Singapore still bake the pastries she used to eat when she was younger. In a country where large-scale landmarks are never safe, there’s something deeply comforting in the knowledge that the small things – lacquered wooden chairs, marble top tables, and even porcelain cups and saucers – can somehow withstand the supposed inevitability of progress. Almost as resilient as the joint’s monumental furniture are the aged servers who remarkably take down your orders and tabulate your bill with nothing but their great memory and math prowess (okay, they do use pen and paper at times).
It is the food, however, that makes getting a seat a challenge. After all, nostalgia alone can’t fill tummies. All of Chin Mee Chin’s baked goods are made on site. Their egg tarts have robust pastry crusts that embrace wobbly egg pudding. Their kaya toasts are unique, with round buns and homemade signature Kaya paste and a generous slice of butter that melts into a puddle of gold before your very eyes. Quick! Snap the photo before it fully dissolves!
In 2013, there were unsubstantiated whispers that Chin Mee Chin Confectionery was closing, but three years later, business is as strong as ever. Due to the large crowds, come before 9.30am and have your orders ready for the servers before you beckon them over. The joint is closed on Mondays.
You can visit it at 204 East Coast Rd, Singapore 428903.
The Ship Restaurant & Bar
Established since 1977, The Ship Restaurant & Bar opened an outlet at NEX shopping mall in Serangoon a few years ago, to complement their original outlet at Shaw Centre. Known for its affordable and, at the time, unique offerings, it serves Western food with a Hainanese twist. Perhaps to reach out to a wider clientele, the NEXT branch also offers a “student value meal” and a “tea time special”. When I visited recently, I made sure to try out its famous Chicken Maryland – and it did not disappoint at all. Deriving its name from the coastal state of Maryland in the United States, the Chicken Maryland was crispy and succulent at all the right places. Also, it was paired with delicious fried corn and banana fritters which balanced well against the salty taste of the fried chicken.
You can visit it at 23 Serangoon Central, #01-61/62 NEX Shopping Mall, 556083
The entrance to Pete’s Place is so nondescript that it’s almost a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of place. Located in the basement of Grand Hyatt Singapore, you wouldn’t be faulted for walking right by its entrance, a lone stairwell that brings you there from bustling Scotts Road. Do make it a point to locate it though because you’ll be brought to a treasure trove of Italian delicacies. Pete’s Place, established in 1973, looks and feels like a secret wine cellar and the photos of celebrities – most of whom were famous in the ’80s or ’90s – that line its four walls are a testament to its illustrious history.
My personal favourites are the thin-crust pizzas that come straight from their wood-fired ovens. The Pizza Margherita features fresh tomatoes and basil, and stringy melted mozzarella cheese on top of the crispy pastry. From the same rustic oven are the freshly baked bread with crusts that crackle with each bite and that goes in perfect tandem with the soup of the day. Also, the last time I visited Pete’s Place for their lunch buffet, I appreciated the unique taste of the blackcurrant panna cotta. While I’ve had strawberry and blueberry Pannacotta, this blackcurrant variation was an unexpected treat. Even though the lunchtime buffet will set you back $35, it does have a wide spread of salads, soups, mains, pizzas and dessert.
You can visit it at 10 Scotts Rd, Grand Hyatt Singapore Hotel, Singapore 228211
Featured image vintage restaurant by unsplash user Caleb Thal.
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