Authentic Portuguese food hadn’t existed in Singapore before a group of Portuguese friends decided to turn that around with BOCA, a new restaurant located in the old premises of Oca Grassa on Bukit Pasoh Road. While the exterior of this conservation shop house remains untouched, its meticulously designed interior is marked by subtle nuances of Portugal – from the flock of ceramic black swallows (known locally as andorinha and famous for their migratory journey to Portugal every spring) arranged ‘in flight’ on the walls , to crochet blinds that are imported from their home country.
The feast for your senses continues onto the table, where we were introduced to the best extra virgin olive oil we have ever tasted. Imported from Portugal, its nutty almond flavours lent a savoury note to the freshly baked squid ink bread – our pick from the basket and a great palate starter to the rest of the meal. Meet Portugal's Staple: Bacalhau We recommend starting as we did, with Cod fritters (Pastéis de bacalhau de Alfama; $15) made with Portugal’s famous bacalhau – salted cod fish – which the locals eat as often as we eat rice. Another noteworthy dish to enjoy this Portuguese delicacy is the 'Braz' Codfish ($28; Bacalhau a Braz) – a mound of crisp deep-fried shredded potatoes, caramelized onions and a beaten egg – similar to a rosti but far creamier. And unlike most, BOCA’s Octopus Salad ($24; Salada de Polvo à Marinheiro) is tender and not overly chewy, thanks to the chef’s quick blanching technique. What stole the show however, was the Flamed Chorizo ($36; Chouriço em chamas) – a pork sausage prepared with wine, garlic, salt and paprika, flambéed tableside on a specially designed dish. It gets better – soak up the remaining oils with the accompanying homemade bread.
Breaded porridge and Coffee steak Piquing our interest even further were mains like the bowl of Shrimp Porridge ($28; Açorda de Camarão). Instead of rice grains, this one takes the form of a bread-based casserole where homemade bread is aged for two days, then immersed in a shrimp stock before simmering over a low flame to reach a thick porridge-like consistency. This unique dish comes crowned with a sunny egg yolk and is also available in a Bacalhau variation. To the coffee lovers, you’ll need to get a whiff (and taste) of BOCA’s signature Coffee Steak ($48; Bife à café). Unless a 220g Australian tenderloin covered in coffee sauce doesn’t sound like a dream to you. What had us licking our plates clean was the side of garlicky almond butter rice that came with. Simply aromatic.
Authentic Portuguese Egg Tarts Thanks to BOCA, our eggs-pectations for a creamy egg tart have been redefined. At $4.50, their egg tarts are the first things you should order due to its limited quantity. It’ll be a flaky mess and you’ll probably get icing sugar all over your lips, but the sweetness from the caramel custard that matches the crisp and slightly charred pastry makes it all very worthwhile. Extra room for dessert? Get the Floating Island ($15; Leite crème com farofias flutantes em nuvem de caramel) – an Instagram-ready pick. Crowned with a spun sugar nest, what you see is a delicate egg white cloud in caramel, which sits atop a vanilla custard. BOCA, 6 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089820
Written by Peh Yi Wen