You know a Portuguese restaurant serves up authentic Portuguese fare when even your expat Portuguese friend sings its praises.
Boca, which means mouth in Portuguese, is a two-storey restaurant that serves up rustic Portuguese food in a quiet corner along Bukit Pasoh Road.
The ground floor, done up very simply yet elegantly, pairs an open concept kitchen with turquoise walls studded with ceramic swallows – a nod to Portugal’s coastal climate – will seat 16 comfortably. The second storey offers more seating options, while a 20-seater wine cellar occupies the third storey.
When we lunched there the first time, it was just head chef manager Hélio and manager Daniel cooking and bussing for four tables.
Hélio, who is also in charge of sourcing, admitted to taking an interest in cooking because he found his school cafeteria lunches “inedible” as he shaped a mixture of boiled cod and potatoes into pastéis de bacalhau or cod fritters.
“I began to learn cooking from my mother. I was 17,” Hélio said as he arranged four golden fritters on each plate of arroz de tomate or tomato rice – our set lunch entrée ($15, with dessert and drink). Seasoned with a light hand, the fritters bring out the umami of the tomato and seafood broth-infused Thai jasmine rice.
On our second dinner visit, Daniel welcomed us like long lost friends, and insisted we have the polvo à lagareiro or octopus leg ($38), “Very fresh, came this morning,” he said.
It didn’t disappoint. The octopus leg is tender and fragrant – thanks to the dual process of first blanching in an aromatic broth, followed by grilling – while garlic chips and kalamata olives provided a satisfying crunch and tangy salty goodness.
Daniel’s other recommendation, the chouriço em chamas or grilled chorizo ($25) had us mopping up the residual oils on the plate with the accompanying bread.
Our second entrée, a large slab of bife à café or coffee steak ($48) – clearly meant for sharing – is not only good value for money but also moreish with its coffee and cognac cream sauce.
Dinner portions are big, so go in a group. Boca’s Portuguese egg tart ($6) is a die-die-must-try. The oozy custard filling will have you reaching for another – you will never buy another knockoff from your neighbourhood bakery again.
6 Bukit Pasoh Road
(Outram MRT Station, Exit H)
Tel: 6221 0132