It could be the blue and white azulejo-inspired artworks on the wall or perhaps the massive tiled backdrop that forms the focal point for the bar area, but there is a palpable Portuguese vibe about Bocado, Damansara Heights’ newest and shiniest Mediterranean restaurant.
Regulars from the neighbourhood would know it as the former Pietro, an Italian restaurant owned by the ECM Libra boys but whose true forte actually lay in its small but masterful menu of local dishes, including a particularly superb grouper fish-head curry and chilli crabs. Then Covid-19 struck and Pietro closed. There was talk shortly after of an Indochinese place — called Ngam or something to that effect — opening, but lo and behold, Spanish became the literal order of the day.
Having just opened on April 25, Bocado is still in its soft-launch stage with a limited menu presided over by Ignasi Prats, who hails from a Catalonian family of bakers and patissiers. Currently, only dinner is served although there are plans for lunch service soon. Its name essentially means “small bites” in Spanish and those perusing the tapas menu will find Bocado is aptly named indeed. All the favourites found on a traditional tapeo crawl are represented, including Gambas al Ajillo (RM45), grilled Atlantic octopus (RM56), lamb meatballs topped with Idiazabal cheese (RM35) and mushroom bechamel croquetas (RM32).
Sadly, the day we popped by, the Briox Meloso (RM39), a mini bun filled with slow-cooked beef and tangy coleslaw, was unavailable but almost everything else we sampled was delicious. The only improvement to ask for would be chewier bread to accompany the garlic, chili and parsley-flecked prawns — all the better to mop up the flavourful olive oil with — and perhaps a little more innovation for the calamari rings (RM42), which were acceptable but ho-hum.
If you need ideas on what wines to go with your meal, all you have to do is ask. There is a dedicated sommelier on site and Bocado’s wine list does deserve one’s attention. Naturally, Spain is well-represented, with all its various regions and varietals. If you are entertaining and wish to impress your dinner party, there is the top-rated and world-famous Unico by Vega-Sicilia (priced at RM3,500, but who’s quibbling if you are about to seal a deal?).
However, we were more excited by the fact that there was a Pingus on the list. If you have yet to try wines from this extraordinary winery in the La Horra area of the Ribera del Duero, please do so post-haste. But lest everyone gets into a tizzy, only Pingus’ second wine, Flor de Pingus, is listed — not the cult flagship. Still, it is the acclaimed 2017 vintage (RM1,180) that every renowned wine writer, from James Suckling to Robert Parker Jr, has waxed lyrical about.
If the wine prices make your eyes water, then go for the Estrella Galicia, a beautiful blond beer with a yeasty nose and crisp flavour, making it an easy match for most dishes and, honestly, the perfect drink after another searingly hot KL day. You may also choose to BYOB. Corkage is priced at RM100 for wine and RM200 for spirits.
For mains, the Paletilla de Cabrito (RM220) was a decided highlight, starring Spanish suckling lamb shoulder slowly cooked for no less than 16 hours and served with new potatoes and chimichurri. It was, to borrow the cliched term, fall-off-the bone. In Malaysian parlance the adjective would be lekang, as used to describe rambutan. We chose not to have it with the chimichurri, which we felt overpowered the delicate meat. So if you still have olive oil left over from the Gambas al Ajillo, use that to anoint your slivers of lamb instead.
We also tried the Solomillo de Ternera (RM150), a velvety hunk of Australian grass-fed tenderloin, which goes wonderfully with a bottle of Tempranillo - or most reds, for that matter. As we could barely eat anything else, a return trip will have to be made to sample the carbo-driven paellas made with arròz bomba, which thoughtfully come in portions for two or four.
There are currently four puddings available — Spanish burnt cheesecake (RM36), a passion fruit and cacao tartlet (RM38), Tarta de Santiago (RM35) or almond cake with ice cream and cinnamon, and lemon and orange-infused creme brulee (RM42). We ordered the first two and found both to be overly fussy, with too many drips and drizzles all about the plate. So, once the mixologist is on board, we would advise you to skip dessert and have another drink instead.
The cocktail menu is already immensely intriguing, featuring appetite-whetting creations such as the Oliva y Limon (RM51) which combines extra virgin olive oil, Xoriguer Mahon gin, preserved lemon and sage with East Imperial yuzu lemonade, and the Michelada (RM41) — beer, habanero pepper, Worcestershire, fresh lime, salt and pepper.
Or, if you’ve taken our suggestion and picked a drink over dessert, there is also the option of a wee dram with which to while the night away. Nearly a dozen choices are available but if you are feeling particularly swish, a peg of the Macallan 18YO Double Cask would do the job nicely.
Bocado Restaurant, Ground floor, Bangunan ECM Libra, 8 Jalan Damansara Endah, KL. Daily, 6-10pm. For reservations, call 012 923 3206.
This article first appeared on May 16, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.