BOCA: Made For Sharing
Eating at DIFC is always an interesting experience, as the restaurants there tend to have a refined but laid back vibe that’s often at odds with the busy rush of people rushing to and from their lunch hours. Boca, situated on one end of the Gate Village (adjacent to Zuma), boasts the flavors of the Mediterranean with a combination of French, Spanish and Italian cuisine. They’ve just launched a brand new menu (from the beginning of this month, in fact), which provided me with the perfect opportunity to drop by for lunch.
The bar is the first thing that comes into view on entering Boca, highlighting the easygoing atmosphere of the restaurant. The main dining room has an inviting look with wooden tones, bright warm lighting and a black and white contrast that’s brightened up with lime green accents. One side opens onto a small walled terrace, but while it does feel nice to sit outside in this weather, the sight of towering skyscrapers all around dulls the charm of the outdoors a bit.
As Boca is a sharing concept, the menu is made up of various small plates. There’s also a section called ‘Grande’ made up of larger dishes, but there are no veggie options there. I end up ordering an even mix of newer additions to the menu and some of their original classics.
One of the new dishes is Leek and Potato Soup, the perfect complement to the slightly windy weather. The hearty soup gets an extra dose of sharp flavor thanks to smoked parmesan cream. A potato rosti sits along the edge of the bowl; while tasty, it also gets quite soggy and hard to manage after a while. It might have been better to serve it alongside the soup.
This goes well with one of the dishes from their original menu, Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad. Green and white cauliflower florets are served with hearts of lettuce and toasted hazelnuts, topped off with dots of black truffle cream. While the cauliflower itself is fairly bland, it serves as a good backdrop for the earthy tones of the truffle and hazelnut combination.
Next among the newer dishes is Grilled Corn, coated in smoked chilli butter and served with fried herbs and popcorn! The corn is bright and summery, with a rich and tangy flavor. The fried herbs add an earthy note while the popcorn adds some crunch.
One of the older Boca dishes, Socca de Nice, is a common street food along the Riviera. This chickpea and olive oil pancake is completely delectable and I’m glad, and perhaps not surprised, that this dish stayed in the new menu. Slather on a bit of the spicy sauce that’s served with it and it’s perfect.
Another one from the original menu is Fried Padron Sweet Chili Peppers with sea salt and fried rosemary. This is the one real disappointment for me. The chilies don’t have a very strong flavor and even the salt doesn’t add much to them. They’re just a bit greasier than I would like, and I find myself largely ignoring them as I make my way through the meal.
My final savory dish, taken from the new additions, is Pizzetta Melanzane, a long flatbread topped with tomatoes, basil, buffalo mozzarella and roasted eggplant. The smokiness of the eggplant is front and center, and the herbs give the dish a wonderful freshness. I’m not sure you’ll want to share this one.
For dessert, I find myself torn between a few interesting choices but finally opt for the Mascarpone Crème Brulee based on my server’s recommendation. The brulee contains tonka beans, small black beans commonly used as a vanilla substitute, and is topped with a raspberry compote and a raspberry candy ‘bubble’. The top of the brulee is just perfect, cracking with a tap from my fork, and the combination of tart raspberries and creamy mascarpone is a delight. Little surprise that this is one of their most popular desserts.
With its laidback atmosphere and very friendly staff, Boca provides a nice getaway from the busy work day, or a place to unwind in the evening. While I would love it if they added some veggie dishes to the ‘Grande’ section of the menu, the food is primarily designed to be enjoyed with some friends.
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: ✔
Pros: Good service, great atmosphere, and delicious food.
Cons: Limited vegetarian main course options.
Price: $$ (50 - 200 AED)
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