La Boca Bar & Grill

Tony Ling
20th Feb 2017

Argentine food is definitely something you don’t see every day. Their ritualistic worship of galvanizing every bit of flavour in their meat may seclude the vegans and vegos out there, but what you get is some of the most satisfying yet heartfelt affairs of tastiness that will make any meat lover cherish their carnivore stance.

The fine folks at La Boca Bar and Grill graciously invited us to taste their delightful revamped menu of Argentinian love and care. Behind the helm is the Argentinian Chef de Cuisine: Nicolas Arriola. The man has an impeccable diverse culinary background having cooked in kitchens from New Zealand, China, and Budapest to a 3-starred Michelin restaurant in Spain. Such an assorted background definitely lends to the diverse and complex flavours found in our set menu, to which the good man flew here from Argentina only recently to oversee and supervise this new menu transition.

One may have heard of Malbec. This incantation of French turned Argentine purple grapes gave the world a craze of affection and is still driving foodies crazy here in Oz. It’s light and sweet nodes are often praised for its uncanny ability to pair so well with so many things from chocolates to grilled meat. That’s definitely something Merlot or Shiraz can’t compete with. We had wine pairings for almost every dish in this course but the highlight definitely goes to the 2011 Marcello Pellereti Reserve Malbec. It has been matured in French oak that gave off delightful flavours of chocolate and liquorice that complimented the Asador Pork Belly & Lamb Leg bringing in a lush wash of otherworldly savoury flavour.  

The Lime-cured Kingfish did its job as entrée brilliantly. This dish seemed so simple in execution with its accompaniment of Sweet Corn, Avocado, Tomato, Cucumber, and Onion. Yet the flavours in your mouth was more complex than anticipated in the most delightfully tasty ways. The sweetness of the pickled vegies comes to an acidic duet with the sour avocado that supports the lime’s maturity on the kingfish achieving excitement and cleansing for the pallet.

Out of the four entrees, the other highlight is the Octopus, Kipfler Potatoes, Trussed Tomatoes, Fennel, Balsamic Pearls. This dang octopus is the best octopus I’ve ever had. It keeps that octopus essence but it had the satisfying texture of chicken! The slow cook process got rid of the rubbery chewiness of the octopus completely and what was left is a tender meat crusted with a powerful and not overcompensating layer of spices and saltiness. I could eat a whole plate of those damn things.

The Corn & Zucchini Pancake, Goats Curd, and Beetroot for mains lost a bit of coal for the proverbial steamy taste train. Sadly while you can taste hints of savouriness and sweetness from the pancake’s potential, it is shelled in a carbo blandness and dryness that reduces it to the little pancake that could. The presentation was not the most flattering either.

The Asador Pork Belly & Lamb Leg is definitely a loving testament to how much the Argentine value their meat. These one-month dry aged meats are smoked, and then slow cooked to make the perfect marriage on your plate with a presentation to match. The distinction of the meats are made very clearly, whilst the tougher lamb is seasoned generously, the pork is light on seasoning to let its good fat content carry its other added flavours. Both results in the tender, subtly spiced and varied meats that melt in your mouth that should be tried both together and separately for the tasty respect that they deserve.

Here’s hoping you like the diary because the dessert platter was a creamy celebration of cows everywhere. Almost. The Hazelnut Stoned Coffee Anglaise accompanied with Orange Segments, Lemon Balm, more hazelnut stones, and assorted berries was a ship of flavours that never overstayed its welcome. The freshness of the fruits with those citrus undertones of the lemon balm cut through the richness of the Anglaise to make an exquisite texture of cream, fruit, nut and citrus. The Anglaise was not too rich (thank goodness) on a foundation of chocolate sponge that almost makes this a hipster mousse. Sweetness of such ingredients was delicate and subtle enough not to be overpowering anything else that went down the hole in a refreshing nourishment.

What really takes the cake though is actually a non-diary Coconut Palamansi Panna Cotta that will definitely attract the sweet-tooths of the non-gluten, non-diary culture. Topped with a brightness of strawberry frost along with the sour sweetness of pineapple and mango, one can go for one scoop after another spoiled in the simple coconut creaminess in a balanced journey on the palate.

The interior decor of the restaurant has some spunk. It is definitely warm and inviting hiding itself away from the classy and pretentious abodes of fine dining interior design. On its walls were authentic Argentine eateries within the nation are known to be homely places. Places similar to the classic American Diner that treats you as one of their own. Walls of authentic and vivid coloured Argentinian art sweeps the interior horizon. Even the wood has some comic personality of its own with mini comics, cartoons and quotes of their food and culture that lay about on the surface elegantly like some neat typography.

The love that goes into the cooking of the meat is right at your eyes reach on a show stage of its own as chefs of the trade busily run about their errands on stove and grill whilst your eyes can watch like a hawk on their focused doings. But you can’t be beside them as they cook though. You gotta keep away from their space which is anywhere below the steps of the stage which is understandable. The potential for live music is high. The acoustics of the room is remarkable well chambered and creates the potential for amazing spacious ambience that would bream the restaurant with audible life and vibrancy. We had a lovely lady guitarist with us with a mike playing background music and it never intruded on our own conversations and meshed well for the ears.

Of course the price of such sophisticated meals are debatable depending on your socio-economic status and what not. Dishes mentioned in this review can be found in a myriad of selections for 2-3 coursed meals which you customise to your liking that range from $29 to $39 for lunch and $59 to $75 for dinner respectively. There is also the Bar Bites menu which displays features Tapas and Light Meals in around the $20 price range for a slightly less intimidating feed featuring the usual suspects like burgers and salads. In retrospect, the prices do feel somewhat fair for the amazing quality and service that goes into them. Our waitresses were incredibly accommodating and friendly, all dishes had a taste of freshness in the sourcing of their ingredients (the head chef personally aged his meat in Adelaide before sending it here). Plus, you have the authentic cooking methods like the Asador which is a unique barbecue method from Argentina and its neighbours that make meat a rock star of succulence that is hard to get from that traditional culture around here in Sydney.

For any foodie even if they’re on a student budget, this place can fill you up without the pretentious minimalistic portions of fine dining stereotypes. There is value to be had here in eating traditional Argentine cuisine and its novelty to be found here in Sydney only adds to the incentive to give this a try. I know my inner carnivore spirit will go back there again, hungry for more.