BOCA – A Taste of Portugal in Singapore
Geographically situated on the South-western end of the European continent, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal naturally has a heavy seafood focused diet. As a former colonial power, Portugal’s empire reached far and wide from Brazil in the West, Angola in the South, to Macau in the East. The unique Portuguese cuisine was thus greatly influenced through spices, sugar, and coffee acquired from its vast colonies.
For a taste of Portugal, you need not travel far all thanks to BOCA for introducing vibrant Portuguese cuisine to the Singapore food scene. BOCA which means “mouth” in Portuguese. Located along the wining and dining enclave at Bukit Pasoh Road, this 3-month-old restaurant serves up classic home-style dishes
BOCA is nestled in a charming three-storey shophouse where each level caters to a different dining experience for guests. All furniture, décor and light fixtures specially imported from Portugal. Once through the entrance to this enchanting conservation shophouse, the first sight that greets the diner is undoubtedly the eye-catching flock of ceramic black swallows adorning the walls. A national icon in Portugal, these birds are known locally as andorinha which represents family, loyalty and love. They have a total of 700 birds throughout the restaurant.
The kitchen is helmed by a young dynamic duo, Chef Luca Bordino (previously of The Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort) and Chef Francisco Vaz (previously of Páteo do Petisco) – both natives of Portugal and collectively boasts 10 years of cooking experience and a wealth of knowledge having graduated from the renowned Estoril Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotel Studies (ESTHE) in Lisbon, Portugal. All wildly passionate about their country, they seek to bring a piece of authentic Portuguese culture to Singapore through their love of food, wine and design.
BOCA specially imports ingredients from Portugal, including: olives and extra virgin olive oil that are particularly flavourful due to the warm and sunny climate of Southern Portugal; fragrant almonds specifically from the Douro region; and the intensely flavoured bacalhau (dried and salted cod) that the Portuguese affectionately call their “national ingredient” – it is said to have one recipe for each day of the year and more!
For appetizers, a light and refreshing option is the Octopus salad ($24). This denizen of the deep is blanched quickly several times to ensure a tender texture. It is then thinly sliced and dressed with crunchy capsicums, crispy garlic, red onions, cilantro, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and smoky paprika.
A feast for the eyes and the palate is the Flamed chorizo ($36). An import from Portugal, the plump sausage is made from of pork, wine, garlic, salt and paprika, and is flambéed tableside served on a specially-designed lattice top earthenware dish. Homemade bread comes with the chorizo, which is perfect to sop up the tasty oils left on the plate.
Bacalhau is codfish which has been preserved by drying and salting it. It was said to be created by Portuguese explorers who needs a portable source of protein which could keep for many months. Now, bacalhau is part of the cultural culinary fabric of Portugal and can be found in many dishes at BOCA. One of them is Cod fritters ($15) made with the famed bacalhau, potatoes and parsley served with a piquant pickled mayonnaise on the side.
Bacalhau is also featured in BOCA’s ‘Braz’ codfish ($28). The cod is mixed in with crisp deep-fried shredded potatoes, caramelised onions and a beaten egg for a creamy, uplifting spoonful in every bite. With coriander, parsley and olives added, the potatoes are first pan fried with egg, hence creating the crispy surface with soft interior.
My favourite is the comforting hot bowl of Bacalhau or shrimp “porridge” ($28). Açorda is a bread-based casserole and at BOCA, the chefs age their homemade bread for two days before immersing it in bacalhau or shrimp stock for a more intense flavour. It is then transferred into a pot, simmered and stirred over a low flame until the bread takes on a “porridge” consistency. A fresh egg yolk is added on top just before serving and creates a velvety finish when mixed in. It may not be the most photogenic dish but the flavours from the fake porridge is excellent.
If you love coffee, another signature dish at BOCA is the Coffee steak ($48 ) whereby a 220g Australian tenderloin is grilled medium-rare and then blanketed in piquant coffee sauce incorporating a shot of espresso with mustard, cream and a dash of cognac. Paired with this is an equally delicious helping of rice that has been cooked with almonds, aromatic garlic, onions, herbs and a generous dollop of butter for added depth of flavour. I love coffee, but this dish didn’t work for me because the strong coffee covered the natural flavour of my steak.
For a classic end to a delightful meal, the Floating island ($15) is a must. A light egg white quenelle “cloud” sits atop slightly sweetened vanilla custard dusted with cinnamon, layered with passion fruit coulis and fragrant shredded basil, before being crowned with a delicately spun sugar nest. Chocolate lovers will salivate over the Cognac chocolate mousse ($13) made of smooth and creamy valrhona chocolate mousse topped with tangy cognac macerated red berries, lemon cream and crunchy hazelnut praline.
MUST TRY! You should not leave without sampling the Authentic Portuguese egg tarts ($4.50). This unassuming but divine sweet takes considerable skill and the chefs at BOCA only produce 20 pieces a day. A creamy egg custard is baked in a flaky puff pastry then finished off in the broiler to achieve a subtle charred surface. It is then dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar before being served. The juxtaposition of creamy caramel custard and perfectly crisp pastry is ecstasy for the senses. So when you call to make reservation, be sure to also reserve the egg tarts!
To complement the food at BOCA, an array of alcoholic beverages are available. More than 50 wines labels and spirits from different wine regions of Portugal will be featured. These have been painstakingly chosen by Alentasia, an importer that specialises in Portuguese wines and unique Portuguese beverages. The company was founded here in Singapore three years ago by brothers Luis and Pedro Encarnação, and Pedro’s wife, Patricia Ortega-Encarnação. The name Alentasia is a portmanteau of Alentejo (the Portuguese region where Luis and Pedro were born) and Asia (which is Patricia’s home).
BOCA’s in-house sommelier is ever ready to assist with wine recommendations from whites such as Quinta de Gomariz G. Escolha from Vinho Verde ($16 per glass | $79 per bottle), Vinha das Servas from Alentejo ($14 per glass | $68 per bottle); or red wines like the Quinta do Vallado from Douro ($16 per glass | $80 per bottle), Monte da Peceguina from Alentejo ($18 per glass | $89 per bottle).
Address: 6 Bukit Pasoh Rd, Singapore 089820
Tel: 6221 0132
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 6pm – 12am (last order 10.30pm)
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