by Foo Rong En
While many of us tend to hunt for the newest cafes to Instagram, let’s not forget some of the oldest restaurants in Singapore that have served a variety of cuisines – from Russian and Peranakan to Muslim and Chinese food – for decades. In addition to serving time-tested dishes, most of these heritage restaurants are still run by the original owners or their descendents.
Opened in 1986, Shashlik was founded by 9 employees from the legendary Troika Restaurant (closed in 1985). Its namesake is a nod to Troika’s famous dish, Shashlik: meat skewers served on a sizzling hot plate.
Brimming with old-world charm, signature classics include the Borshch soup (a hearty Russian stew) and Chicken à la Kiev, a breaded chicken thigh stuffed with rich parsley garlic butter. A unique item is the Egg Millionaire – housed in its own shell, the finely-diced boiled egg is encrusted with parmesan cheese gratin and bacon bits.
Their Russian Coffee is a potent blend of brewed coffee with Tia Maria (coffee liqueur), flambéed with vodka and topped with whipped cream. A favourite dessert is the Baked Alaska – a delectable ice cream-and-sponge cake encased in meringue, flambéed with dark rum.
Beaulieu House Restaurant
Fancy having tze char in a colonial black-and-white bungalow overlooking the Strait of Johor in Sembawang Park? Beaulieu House Restaurant has been in operation since 1981, housed in the historic Beaulieu House which was built in 1910 as a holiday home.
With enchanting neo-classical features, diners today can still see the original terrazzo clay tiles and colourful floor tiles with beautiful geometric patterns in the halls. Hand-wrought Victorian cast-iron detailing throughout the house adds to its charm.
Their menu features Chinese cuisine with an array of seafood dishes, coupled with a smaller selection of Western favourites. Signature dishes include de-shelled prawns with salted egg and pumpkin, chilli crab, and braised pork knuckle with dried oysters. Their homemade creations include silky beancurd topped with shimeji mushrooms and yam paste in coconut cream.
Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant
Nestled in a quaint shophouse in the Peranakan enclave of Joo Chiat, Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant is the oldest Nonya restaurant in Singapore, serving up traditional Peranakan dishes since 1953. The shophouse dining room stocks a mini-museum of vintage tableware at the back.
They take pride in making their own rempah (spices) from scratch, which imparts rich flavours to dishes such as beef rendang and udang assam pedas (prawns in spicy tamarind sauce). A signature is their ayam buah keluak – tender chicken braised in an inky-black sauce made from rempah and the flesh of Indonesian buah keluak nuts. End any meal on a sweet note with a refreshing chendol drizzled with gula melaka.
Established in 1921 in the historic Kampong Glam district by the head chef of the famous Alsagoff family, the restaurant is currently managed by the third-generation owner. The restaurant has had the privilege to serve the likes of our first President Yusoff Bin Ishak and MM Lee Kuan Yew, as well as Prime minister Lee Hsein Loong.
The restaurant’s star dish is their legendary Beryani, a decadent combination of juicy meat (from chicken to prawn and mutton) and basmati rice. They also serve crowd-favourites like palak paneer (Indian cottage cheese cooked with spinach and spices) and butter chicken with tomato cream sauce. Mop up the gravy with freshly-made naan and wash down the meal with a refreshing, yoghurt-based mango lassi. They also serve a variety of mamak favourites, like Mee Goreng and Nasi Goreng.
Opened in 1947, Komala Villas is one of Singapore’s oldest Indian vegetarian restaurants. It first served South Indian cuisine before North Indian cuisine was introduced to the menu.
Its traditional South Indian rice meals offer a dizzying variety of accompaniments, including masala potato and raita (cucumber yoghurt), with a slew of curry-based dips to elevate your meal with creamy or tangy flavours; served on freshly cut banana leaf. For a lighter meal, the idly set comprises steamed rice cakes begging to be dipped in sambar and chutney; the paper dosai (lentil and rice flour pancake) is a hulking yet impossibly crispy pancake with a trio of dips. The classic North Indian dish is the Gobi Mutter, which takes fried cauliflower to new heights with its caramelised sweet and sour Indian-Chinese sauce.