6 Bukit Pasoh Road
Until a few months ago, the closest thing that Singapore had to Portuguese food was egg tarts and Nando’s (neither of which claim to be authentically Portuguese). That all changed with the opening of Boca, a new restaurant in lower Chinatown that impresses with its bife à café ($48), an organic Australian tenderloin flambéed in Cognac and topped with a rich coffee cream sauce. The chorizo ($36) is also on fire. It’s served flaming on a layer of brandy; when the blaze dies down, you dive in for the meat and sop up the drippings with a side of homemade bread.
It’s said that Portugal has 365 ways to prepare bacalhau, the salted cod that is the crowning jewel of the nation’s cuisine. We ordered it here as a fritter mixed with potatoes, onions and parsley ($15); it’s also available in a hearty porridge sautéed with bread, shrimp stock and coriander ($28) among other variations. Desserts, like the vanilla custard with egg white “clouds” and spun sugar “nest” ($15) and the almond cake with homemade Port sorbet ($16), are beautifully plated. Our tip: Get a front-row seat to the plating action from the bar that runs the length of the restaurant. From there you can nudge the chefs and restaurant manager for ordering suggestions – they’re all from Portugal and are more approachable than most.
The Singaporean sommelier may recommend you start the meal with a glass of vinho verde, Portugal’s slightly effervescent “green” wine. We did. Just be sure to end it with an egg tart, which the menu makes clear is the real deal. Creamier and less eggy, it’s worlds away from the versions you get in Singapore or Macau.
This story first appeared in Expat Living Singapore’s April 2015 issue.