An evening to remember as BOCA’s head chef Carlo di Reda treated Keep Dining to a wonderfully decadent secret menu event
It is no great surprise that one of the parts I love about most about my job is attending surprise chef menu events. You never know what to expect or whom you are going to meet, so I was absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to join BOCA’s 50 Chefs evening. Led by the Italian Head Chef Carlo di Reda we were invited for a private evening of only 10 guests to enjoy a specially prepared menu. So, with a huge amount of anticipation fellow Keep Dining editor Sarah and I popped on our best heels and jumped on the metro to the DIFC’s BOCA restaurant.
This was an absolute whirlwind of an experience with Prosecco to break the ice our little group very quickly started easily conversing in the bustling BOCA main restaurant. We were then led downstairs into their intimate wine cellar. One long hefty wooden table surrounded with benches, this cool and atmospheric location was dimly lit and had perfect acoustics for whole dinner table conversation, of which there was plenty. There was something about the evening, which just perfectly came together, and has to be one of my more enjoyable nights out in recent times.
The evening was an opportunity for BOCA’s Head Chef Carlo to create and serve a distinctive and playful menu while interacting with the guests. It was such fun as we could ask him questions about the dishes that he picked, the reasons behind the wine selection and what inspired his menu. We were quite an eclectic group, from a range of industries, brought together by our love for fine food with everyone eager to participate and make an impression. This made for spontaneous chat, some interesting cat anecdotes and a lot of laughter.
Chef Carlo made his introductions before the meal started, clearly a confident Chef who wanted to show us something special. What made the evening particularly interesting is that he was excited about the menu and the dishes we were going to be experiencing. This was going to be a gluten-free menu, which gave him an interesting challenge. I was initially a little hesitant, as in my experience gluten free tends to not have a great deal of flavour, however, after the first course of creamy foie gras profiteroles I was put completely at ease.
The main event
The dinner was a sharing style, with lots of small dishes we could plate up ourselves. Meaning each person could pick and choose the dishes that appealed the most, and there were so many intriguing morsels to select. We started with lentil breads with spicy aubergine dips, meaty prawns and ridiculously tasty olives. If there was a particularly popular dish then more was brought out! We were given a choice from a red or white wine; the red was a full-bodied Torres from 2015, complimenting the meat and heady truffle flavours that ran as a theme through many of the dishes.
We moved from the light starters to a moreish pizza with thick slices of Italian smoked cheese, Chef Carlo then shaved thin slices of black truffle directly onto the pizza. Absolutely delicious! A rather unusual dish, which caught my attention, was the cauliflower course. A number of different types of cauliflower, served with a hazelnut puree with truffle oil, a perfect combination of earthy flavours and crunchy textures. To follow there were steaming bowls of clams with wild rice, sticky short ribs and delicate sliders.
All in all, we felt very well taken care of. The food was a constant source of wonder and delight, the wine was free flowing…maybe just a little too free flowing, I think the shots of tequila and vodka may have been slightly excessive.
However, BOCA thoroughly outdid themselves and it was most definitely an evening to remember. Chef Carlo was charming and clearly took pride in the food he was serving and every single person at that table left with a smile on their face and a spring in their step!