Boca is a rare restaurant in Singapore to serve Portuguese cuisine. Although Boca (meaning “mouth” in Portuguese) is only 2 and a half months old, the waiter informed us that the previous chef was homesick and had returned to Portugal for good. The previous chef is replaced by Chef Luca Bordino (from Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort) and Chef Franciso Vaz (from Pateo do Petisco), both natives of Portugal. They are still finding their feet, and therefore the menu is limited.
I understand it is not easy to open a restaurant, finding chefs to replace another. But as a customer, after hearing so many rave reviews on Boca, I was very disappointed at the limited menu–5 starters, 7 mains, 3 desserts. We had no interest in any of the starters, and when I wanted the Portuguese egg tart ($4.50) for dessert, they couldn’t produce it. So in the end, the four of us ordered 5 mains to share.
When the knowledgeable server said, “The bacalhau codfish ($28, above) is not for the faint-hearted,” I replied, “I’m sold. You made your sale. Don’t need to explain the rest of the menu.” But when the dish came, we didn’t understand why it took courage to eat it; there was nothing exotic about the dish. It was a nest of fried onions, potato strips, and cod. Very tasty, praise all round the table for it. But too little fish! Be generous.
The other star was the grilled octopus leg ($38), simply seasoned with salt, olive oil, paprika. Tender and tasty.
The coffee steak ($48, above) was redolent of coffee aroma, and was creamy, but the texture of beef wasn’t good: powdery, like hastily defrosted frozen beef. The special of the day, stewed chorizo, potato, clams ($28, below), with a tomato base tasted like food from a caifan stall, the ham-and-potato in ketchup–not a bad thing, though I wouldn’t order it again. Lagareiro cod ($42) was simply pan-seared cod, and to be honest, it was bland. I can do a better cod at a quarter of the price.
In addition to the limited menu, my other complaint is the food came in tiny portions. Not all of us are Victoria Secrets models. We need to eat.
Lagareiro cod ($42)
The service was knowledgeable and friendly, although two waiters couldn’t handle the rather crowded room. The decor, full of motifs of birds migrating to Portugal for winter, is quirky and lovely. The food was not bad but what a pity we came at an inopportune moment when few items were available. I wonder if it is better to close the restaurant for a few days, figure out the menu, taste the dishes, and re-open when ready, than to keep it open, disappointing guests during this interim.
Sigh, it could have been a marvelous experience for us. Boca has much potential–the food was not bad–but in the end, it was just not ready to take on customers. Including alcohol, we four spent about $70 a person.
6 Bukit Pasoh Singapore 089820
T: +65 6221 0132
M-F 12-2pm, M-Sat 6pm-midnight
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.