Classic portuguese without cheese
Before dining at Boca, a restaurant opened by a group of Portuguese friends working and living in Singapore, my only experience with Portuguese food was restricted to whatever I had tasted in Macau.
I went to one place and ended up eating very little because everything felt like a huge cheesy mess.
So when Boca came along, promising classic home-style dishes using specially imported ingredients from Portugal, including almonds from the Douro region (supposedly the best there is), olives and delicious extra virgin olive oil, and bacalhau (a dried and salted cod), I went with trepidation and a backup meal plan, just in case.
That backup plan wasn't necessary.
There were variations in terms of flavours and textures, and some dishes had a lightness that was surprising. And no cheese!
The kitchen is run by chefs Luca Bordino and Francisco Vaz, and they had the mammoth task of undoing my misconception of what their national cuisine is like. For me, they have done a commendable job.
The shrimp porridge ($28) was so delicious I was practically licking the pot at the end. It's not the type of porridge we are used to. This is made out of bread, fish stock, olive oil and shrimp. The initial taste may feel dry, but keep at it. The flavours will soon overtake it and you'll be addicted. There is a version with bacalhau, the dried salted cod, but the sweetness of this version wins.
I am absolutely in love with the octopus salad ($24). The octopus is first boiled, then dipped in cold water, which keeps it tender while retaining its bite. When I returned unannounced, the octopus had less bite but it was still delicious.
This dish is a great introduction to the bacalhau. The cod fritters ($15) are made out of cured codfish, potato, onions and parsley. The chefs say this is a dish commonly found at home. I've never been to a Portuguese home but tasting this, I can imagine how comfortable it must be.
The eggs with farinheira, a Portuguese smoked sausage, ($16) is a simple scrambled egg dish but had the right amount of saltiness and creaminess. It may not be exciting but it's a great basic dish.
Like Portuguese egg tarts? The ones here ($4.50 each) have none of that cloying sweetness or slick oiliness. The custard is creamy and the pastry flaky. It takes four hours to cook these, so Boca sells only about 30 of these a day. Make sure you ask for it.
6 Bukit Pasoh Road
Mondays to Saturday, 6pm to midnight