[SG] boCHINche | an insight to Argentine cuisine

Friday, July 04, 2014

Apart from knowing that Argentinian cuisine is known for their beef-oriented dishes, I must say I am quite ignorant to what this lovely part of the world has to contribute to the dining table. Argentina is the second country in the world after United States, with the most immigrants mainly from Italy and Spain, which explained the influence of Italian and Spanish cuisine on Argentinian food. Subsequently, the British, German and Jewish also moved to Argentina which resulted in a mixed culture and European culinary influence.

Embodying the Argentinian's social custom of communal dining and gathering, boCHINche offers a convivial atmosphere with its curated list of Argentinian wines and house cocktails. This inspiration comes none other than renowned Argentine chef, Diego Jacquet who previously worked at three Michelin star restaurant El Bulli. Interestingly, he never forgot his roots and often return to Patagonia, a place where he spent most of his youth, to discover his love for food and seek inspiration.

As soon as you step out of the lift to land on the establishment of boCHINche, expect to be impressed by Jerry De Souza's design. It is no surprise as the Spa Espirit Group's Creative Director is the mastermind behind the unique personality of each store. Some of the more commonly known brands under the Spa Espirit Group includes Browhaus, Tiong Bahru Bakery and Tippling Club. Jerry derives his inspiration from just about anything and everything especially from his travels as he seeks to push boundaries. More importantly, Jerry's style is never a cookie-cutter as he consistently thinks ahead and stays progressive in designs, keeping interior designs current and relevant. With a focus on crafting an unique experience, it is no wonder that ambience is a key success element here.

Expect to be greeted by a wine and cocktail bar and the kitchen the moment you step in.

Outdoor seating is also available with comfortable armchairs for one to chill and unwind!

Pan & Manteca | S$7/++
House-baked bread served with salted butter

We particularly enjoyed the freshly toasted bread which was served warm and the salted butter spread melted instantly.

Classic Provoleta, almonds and honey | S$17/++

The beautiful Argentine variant of Provolone cheese is often described as Argentine pulled-curd Provolone cheese. Made of full fat cow's milk cheese, this semi-hard cheese is usually aged for a minimum of four months. Together with the drizzled honey, it had a pleasing sweetness to balance its savouriness and completed by the distinctive piquant taste derived from goat. The almond flakes added a much desired texture to it and while this might not be the norm, I found it extremely satisfying to pair the Provoleta with the bread.

Heirloom tomato salad, burrata, citrus olives & chopped basil | S$23/++

An appetiser to kickstart a hearty Argentine meal, the burrata cheese (which means buttered in Italian) is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. When the burrata is sliced open, ritagli-thickened panna cream flows out, bearing its rich buttery flavour and fresh milkiness which makes it a perfect ingredient in salads. We enjoyed the fresh tomatoes that gave a nice crisp and the citrus olives and chopped basil helped liven up the dish with its refreshing flavours.

Yellow fin tuna, grilled pak choi, spicy humita & crispy "aji molido" tofu | S$30/++

One of the star dishes on the brunch menu, this would have been the dish for me to return to BoCHINche for. With a beautiful sear on the surface of the thick slices of yellow fin tuna, it was almost sashimi-like on the inside, making the fish melt-in-your-mouth, almost. The freshness of the protein shone through as the earthy ground red pepper flakes (known as aji molido in Argentina) helped brought out the flavours from within. Infused in the fine batter coating the delicate tofu, I enjoyed the nice layer of crisp which added texture to the dish. Overall, a very fine dish that impressed my palate.

Organic poached eggs on toast, braised ossobuco & chives hollandaise | S$25/++

The classic eggs ben passed the "flowy egg yolk test" which in my opinion should be a given at any cafe or restaurant that serves the dish. While I enjoyed the tenderly braised veal shanks tucked underneath the poached eggs, I generally prefer the original rendition better with an offering of ham or bacon instead. Also, the hollandaise sauce seemed too mild for my liking as I would desire a stronger punch in acidity and flavours from it.

Smoked salmon & scrambled eggs with red onions, capers and dill cream cheese | S$24/++

Comfort food that you cannot go wrong with. I particularly enjoyed the thick slice of fresh toast with a nice crisp on the edges paired with the velvety scrambled eggs. If you are a fan of smoked salmon like me, expect a generous serving that would please. While I appreciate the attention paid to details such as the fine slices of red onion, this ingredient was quite a misfit in my opinion. Admittedly, it added a nice layer of crunch but the inherently strong flavours of the red onion compromised the overall balance. Or at least it did for me.

House chorizo sausage, Malbec braised ox cheeks & caramelised onions | S$25/++

Food connoisseurs familiar with the Argentine cuisine would know that they are famous for their Malbec and steaks of course. Malbec is in fact a purple grape variety used in the making of red wine and typically the Argentine rendition tends to bear a more fruity note while remaining low in acidity due to the warm climate. As such, the flavours did not quite deliver through the braised ox cheeks though it was cooked perfectly, doing justice to the tender cut. The savoury chorizo sausage found its balance with the beautiful caramelised onions that introduced pockets of sweetness to the dish.

Sirloin steak salad with porcini, sweet potato, grilled leeks & mustard dressing | S$29/++

Thanks to Alain, we managed to try a mouth-bite of the Sirloin steak since it was not quite enough to share around the table! There was a nice layer of juicy fat will pair harmoniously with the crisp sweet potato strips. The dressing was memorable as it left an earthy taste to it that lingers.

Squid burger, smoked pepper, chopped romanine, crayfish & dill mayo | S$29/++

A new addition to the brunch menu and a clear favourite at the table, it was unfortunate that we did not get to try this but feedback received from the table was that the burger was flavourful and had nice textures. While this might sound generic, we would revisit to try this on a separate occasion!

Brioche French toast, house-cooked ham & bacon, vanilla ice cream | S$19/++

While interesting, I could not quite figure out whether this was a main or a dessert. I actually enjoyed the mismatch of the flavours and the boldness of the chef to explore tastes beyond the norms. The savoury ham and bacon worked well with the brioche French toast but it was the rich vanilla ice cream that nailed it for me with a subtle hint of sweetness that teased.

Ricotta pancakes, berries salad, maple syrup & cinnamon creme fraiche | S$18/++

While categorised under their "Our Food" section on the menu, I thought that this might be more appropriate to have this dish as their desserts. Clearly designed for those with a sweet tooth, the acidity from the berries resonates well with the maple syrup though for some reason, I felt the pancake to be overshadowed and not given the attention it probably deserves. Also, it might be a hefty price tag for just three pancakes.

Grilled pineapple, mate tea granita & "arroz con leche" sorbet, lemon crumble | S$18/++

There were quite a few elements in this dessert and arroz con leche actually meant the Spanish version of rice pudding. It made sense since Argentinian cuisine is largely inspired by the Spaniards. It was an interesting array of tastes and textures with the lemon crumble sprinkled across the sorbet which tasted mildly sweet and that grilled pineapple sitting underneath that added a stronger punch of acidity and sweetness.

Milk cake, passion fruit sorbet & toasted almonds | S$14/++

The milk cake was moist and rich, albeit a good rendition standalone. Similarly the passion fruit sorbet was great standalone as it offered a rather intense experience as the acidity cuts through my palate sharply with its distinctness. It was however too overwhelming for me to pair the two elements on the dish together as the passion fruit dominated rather than complemented the milk cake.

"Dulce de leche" creme brulee & banana split ice cream | S$17/++

Dulce de leche is a South American confection prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to create a product that derives its taste from the Maillard reaction (chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugar which gives the product the browning colour and taste). If you have a sweet tooth, this would probably cure your entire day's fix with the creme brulee and ice cream. Overall, it was spot on, nice crust on the creme brulee but I would recommend this to be shared rather than enjoyed alone as anything more than two spoonfuls might be a little satiating on the appetite given the sweetness.

Reminiscing my dining experience at boCHINche, there was this nice glow and burst of energy from the open kitchen where you get to witness the talented chefs at work. The knowledgeable and friendly serving crew enhanced that much desired customer service. The ambience was definitely well-crafted with the conscious effort of Creative Director Jerry at work.

Open concept kitchen as diners get to witness food being prepared and served right before them.

While the dishes in general are heavy on the palate, they were tastefully designed to bring out unique characteristics of its own. Perfect for dates or unwinding after a long week at work over some drinks, bask in the glory of communal dining, Argentine-style!

Overall verdict: 7.5/10

22 Martin Road, #02-01
Singapore 239058
Tel: (+65) 6235 4990

P.S: Special thanks to Alexandra, Janet and team at boCHINche for the invitation and for having us on a lovely Saturday morning!

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