Boca – Singapore
When my friend told me she was taking me to a new Portuguese restaurant, the first words out of my mouth were “What’s Portuguese food actually?” And guess what, now I know.
Replacing the previous tenant Oca Grassa, this narrow space has bar seating which I love as I get to see what the chef is doing. Chef Lola, a Portuguese native helms the kitchen and she is no stranger to the food scene of Singapore. She apparently helped set up Bodega y Tapas for the Esmirada group over six years ago.
But before I move on to the food, I have to say that the decor of this place is….unattractive. For some reason some badly glued on birds adorn the walls of the restaurant and what I assume was a white tiled bar and kitchen is now painted a matte Ikea blue. I’m telling you the walls will not last very long, especially the tiles by the bar. It will be full of shoe prints soon enough and it will be impossible to clean. Plus it caused the tiles to stink of paint.
If the interior designer was hoping to achieve a sparrow filled blue sky, he/she failed. It seemed more like a cheap knock-off Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, instead.
Anyhoo….odd decor aside. On to the food. So what is Portuguese food then? Well…it’s kinda… Spanish. Haha! Well, the cuisine is similar but the cooking techniques differ slightly. Chef Lola’s rendition is actually daintier.
My friend and I had an amuse bouche of Pasteis de bacalhau de Alfalma (as the Chef was feeling generous that day), which is essentially codfish croquette with creamy potatoes and bechamel sauce we scarfed down before I could photograph it. But the official start to the meal was the Chourico en Chamas.
The dish arrived en flambe with flaming brandy below. A spicy and tender chorizo sausage that was cut open rests atop the cage like meat on a grill, enhancing the smoky flavours while infusing the chorizo with the heady brandy. This is as close to an indoor barbecue as you’re going to get.
The next dish was my favourite. The Rissois de camarao da Costa, a chewy Portuguese shrimp dumpling. Bechamel sauce and cubes of fresh shrimp break free from the chewy crisp skin with merely a bite. Do be careful as if you’re over-zealous, you’ll burn your tongue. I could have finished this whole dish on my own but it is actually quite filling and you’re satiated after the third one.
I shocked my friend by eating the head off the grilled sardines first. The best part of a grilled small fish with smoked olive oil is always the head. The briny and fatty oils just seep out, coating the mouth with fishy goodness. She begs to differ and thinks I’m gross, but to each her own. This dish is a little bony as well, so it is quite a bit of effort to get the flesh of this tiny fish. I probably would not order this again, simply as it is too difficult to eat. As SIN City citizens say, the ROI is not met.
What’s a visit to a Portuguese restaurant without having a traditional egg tart or milky rice pudding? Unfortunately, those items were not available when I visited, much to my disappointment. So I ordered a safe chocolate mousse and apple tart instead.
The Mousse de chocolate com praline de avelas comes in a pretty glass bowl that looked like a mini-terranium. The chocolate hazelnut mousse was not overly saccharine and it had a depth to it, a sign of good chocolate. The crumble and strawberries added texture and tartness to refresh the palate between mouthfuls. No, the flower cannot be eaten.
What you see above is the “apple tart” Chef Lola-style. The compressed apple cube is spiced with cinnamon and cloves and sits atop crumble and berry coulis. The white quenelles of cheese mousse accompanies the dish. I guess this her take on a cottage cheese with apple pie.
It did not wow me as I felt that the dish was over complicated, maybe I’m a traditionalist at heart and just want my wedge of apple tart with a dollop of cottage cheese.
Overall, I loved the food and Boca and I will return. Hopefully, the egg tarts and rice pudding will be on the menu when I visit the next time.
Visit Boca’s Facebook page here.
Update Apr 2015: I’ve gone back to Boca again and the egg tarts are amazeballs! Flaky home made puffy pastry which encases a smokey caramelised custard within. Also Lola has left and two male Portugeuse chefs have replaced her. The menu has changed substantially too. Let’s just say its a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach 😛