When it comes to European cuisine in Singapore, Portuguese is not as well-known as Spanish, French or even German. The culture is underexposed and the community here is too small – just 550, according to the Portuguese Embassy – to generate consistent demand.

But three Portuguese expatriates who miss their native food decided to take matters into their own hands. The result is Boca, set in the former premises of Italian restaurant Oca Grassa, in the Bukit Pasoh dining enclave. The kitchen is headed by Luca Bordino and Francisco Vaz, both fresh from Lisbon where they sharpened their knives in The Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort and Pateo Do Pestisco – a casual restaurant a short walk from the sea.

The feel of the entire restaurant is homely and aimed at authenticity. That the Mediterranean country located at the tip of Western Europe has nearly 1,800km of coastline is reflected in Boca’s nautical-themed interiors. The walls are painted blue and adorned with ceramic black swallows, the country’s national icon.

Portuguese dishes feature Mediterranean flavours similar to those of Italian and Spanish, with the use of ingredients like tomatoes, saffron and seafood. The quintessential item, though, is bacalhau – dried and salted cod. One simple yet delicious way to prepare this staple is as a fritter. The cod is breaded then deep fried and served with a mayonnaise mixed with sour pickled vegetables – a moreish combination that had us mopping up the food on the plate.

Boca's dishes - like the bacalhau porride (above) - may look simple and homely, but are packed with flavour.
Boca’s dishes – like the bacalhau porride (above) – may look simple and homely, but are packed with flavour.

The shrimp porridge, a home-style casserole that’s made of shredded bread and shrimp stock, is just as noteworthy. The bread turns into a smooth, deeply comforting congee, while the prawns add crunchy bursts of freshness.

The best is saved for last: the Portuguese-style egg tarts. We’re no stranger to these, thanks to their availability at dim sum eateries, but the rendition here is unforgettable. The luscious melt-in-the-mouth custard is cupped in a puff pastry so flaky that each crisp layer is distinguishable. Only 30 of these tarts are made per day as a form of quality control, so order early to avoid disappointment.

If Portuguese food is always as tasty as the examples, we hope there are more restaurants to come.

6 Bukit Pasoh. EDIT: Boca has relocated to 8 Ann Siang Hill.