Absence didn't make the heart grow fonder, it made the (previous) chef homesick and went back to Portugal! Oh no, will we still get to eat delicious authentic Portuguese food in Singapore then? Thankfully, the answer is ~ Yes!
Launched in January 2015, BOCA Singapore is now helmed by a duo of dynamic lads, Chef Luca Bordino and Chef Francisco Vaz. They are both natives of Portugal and collectively boasts 10 years of cooking experience. Oh boy, these young boys can really cook!
BOCA means "mouth" in Portuguese. The chefs yearned for a genuine taste of home, and set their focus on serving classic home-style dishes using specially imported ingredients from Portugal.
We're talking about olives, extra virgin olive oil, almonds from specific regions, as well as bacalhau, the intensely flavored dried and salted cod that Portuguese affectionately call their "national ingredient". Many dishes and meals in Portugal would not be complete without it.
Portuguese cuisine can be considered as very foreign to me. I do not know what to expect of the food at all (except for Portuguese Egg Tart), but being unfamiliar perhaps has its advantages. There is no benchmark to compare against, throwing us back to the most fundamentally important question which is simply: "Taste nice or not?"
Again, the answer is ~ Yes! Our mouths were very satisfied by BOCA!
We started off with some Flamed Chorizo ($36), though on not that high a note as the plump sausage made of pork, wine, garlic, salt and paprika was somewhat a tad dry. It does made for worthy Instavideos moments with it being flambéed tableside with brandy, but what really stole the show was the accompanying bread.
So so so good, we just had to order more of those warm Homemade Bread ($7) goodness which were such a joy on its own, or even better with olives or a dip into the first-press extra virgin olive oil. All these are baked in-house daily and certainly fresh, so do not hesitate on getting a basket when you're at BOCA.
Other highly pleasing appetizers include the light and refreshing Octopus Salad ($24), and I especially love the Cod Fritters ($15). The mixture of potatoes and onions were deep-fried to a non-greasy crispy outer contrasted with a soft melting inner, and made even more addictive with the inclusion of flavorful bacalhau.
It wouldn't be too far off to say that bacalhau indeed imparts a magical umami aftertaste to the dishes, like the brilliant Braz Codfish ($28). The preserved cod is sautéed with shredded fried potatoes and caramelized onions, eggs, parsley and green olives, each mouthful was a wondrous interplay of textures and savoriness. This got me really hooked. If Portuguese cuisine and bacalhau are having an affair, let it be never ending.
I thought I've already found the shoo-in favorite of the evening, until the Shrimp Porridge ($28) appeared. This dish actually piqued my interest from the moment I set eyes on it on the menu, you know, like how would an "ang moh" porridge taste like?
It turned out that the porridge is not made from rice grains, but from homemade bread that is aged for two days before being immersed in shrimp stock and cooked over a low flame until the bread took on a thick porridge-like consistency. A fresh egg yolk is added just before serving to give it a velvety finish. Generous bits of succulent prawns complete this luscious dish which is perfectly yummy and comforting on any day!
Another signature main at BOCA is the Coffee Steak ($48), a delectable slab of Australian tenderloin grilled medium-rare and blanketed in a sauce comprising of espresso, mustard, cream and a dash of cognac, served alongside almond buttered rice.
Desserts such as Cognac Chocolate Mousse ($13) and Floating Island ($15) were exquisite in both taste and looks, but it was the deceptively simple Portuguese Egg Tart ($4.50 per piece) which blew us all away.
The egg tarts exemplified how an unassuming item can be utterly divine when executed right. Its baked puff pastry was crisp and flaky, delicately holding egg custard which was all of lovely creaminess and eggy fragrance. Sent to the broiler to achieve a subtle charred surface and then dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar just before being served, it was bliss in every bite. This was my BEST EGG TART ever!
Good things comes in small batches and only 20 of these egg tarts are available each day. Tip: Reserve it when making your table reservation.
Needless to say, the dining experience at BOCA was an ambrosial one. I will not hesitate to recommend this restaurant to anyone which hanker for a taste of authentic Portuguese cuisine, or to you who simply wish for a good meal. BOCA's in-house sommelier is also ready to assist with wine recommendations from different regions of Portugal.
I must also add that the interiors of BOCA is gorgeous, spanning 3 levels within an enchanting conservation shophouse and washed in powder blue walls adorned with eye-catching flock of ceramic black swallows which is a national icon in Portugal famous for their migratory journey to Portugal every spring where they make their nests with their life-long companions. They are synonymous with family, loyalty and love, and echoes the Portuguese soul omnipresent at BOCA.
Address: 6 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089820
Contact: +65 6221 0132
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 6pm-12am / Closed on Sundays