This new Russian eatery in Tudor Court has a cold room where you can chill out after dinner
By Wong Ah Yoke, 16 October 2005
THE whole idea of chilling out seems to be taken very literally these days.
CHARMING: Kalinka-Malinka serves Russian food like the tasty pork rib shashlik
Hot on the heels of ice bars that have sprouted in places like Tanjong Pagar and Clarke Quay is a new Russian restaurant with a cold room.
Kalinka-Malinka, which opened on the second floor of Tudor Court 1 1/2 months ago, may seat only about 50 people, but makes space nonetheless for a tiny cold room that 12 people can squeeze in standing.
There, you can toss back a shot or two of vodka to warm up, or just get a thrill from the freezer teaser. Some parkas are available for you to put on before you go inside.
This is a nice gimmick but, for me, not a very necessary one. The dining room itself is charming enough on its own.
Working with the high ceiling and timber rafts of the Tudor-style building, the designer has created a warm, intimate room that calls up notions one has of the Russian heartland.
Kalinka-Malinka, incidentally, is the title of a well-known Russian folk song. The words are the names of two winter berries.
The restaurant owners, Singaporean Leslie Tan and his Russian partner Kocheva Natalia, run a trading and sawmill company in Russia but fly in to Singapore regularly on business. Kalinka-Malinka is their first venture into food. What works against the restaurant is its discreet location. Hidden away from sight on the second floor of Tudor Court, there is no signboard to catch the attention of passers-by.
Only a chalkboard listing the chef's recommendations provides any inkling that there is a restaurant at the top of the narrow staircase at the side of the building next to Tanglin Mall.
When you get upstairs, you see a solid wooden door with no sign to tell you whether the restaurant is open for business or otherwise. You have to try the door handle, hoping that it is unlocked and allows you entry.
All these obviously have not helped the restaurant's business. When I was there for dinner last Tuesday, we were the only customers the entire night.
That is a pity because you get some very decent food here.
Not having been to Russia, I can't vouch for the authenticity of the cooking. But the presence of a burly Russian chef, who took a peek into the dining room after cooking our main courses, was reassuring.
In any case, I was very happy with everything I ordered.
My starter of salmon blini ($7 for two pieces) was a tad dry at the edges but the centre portion was a nice combination of oily fish and crepe, with additional flavour from the fish roe and drizzles of sour cream.
The oxtail borsch ($10) comes in a generous portion, with the clear soup chock-full of chopped vegetables and shredded beef. The stock itself was a little thin, though the aroma of the meat was evident.
But the main courses were my favourite. The chicken a la Kiev ($29) had a nice and crispy coat of crumbs while the meat itself was moist and tender with a wonderful aroma of garlic.
Instead of the iconic lamb or beef shashlik, I opted for a pork rib one ($28) instead. It was so tasty that I wished I was eating at home so I could grab it with my hands and gnaw on the bones.
What disappointed was that both main courses came with the same roasted potatoes and slices of raw cucumber and carrot.
One would have thought that, for such a nice restaurant and its hardly plebeian prices, the chef could have come up with more varied styles of presentation.
These are small complaints, however. It's not often that such a charming restaurant comes on the scene here. Let's hope it stays.
KALINKA-MALINKA RUSSIAN RESTAURANT
143 Tanglin Road #02-02/04 Tudor Court
Opening hours: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm
Price: Budget about $60 per person, without drinks.