Restaurant Boca Iberica
By Robert Ravensbergen

A Sense of the Old School

Manuel Martins, a fixture on Montreal’s restaurant scene since 1989, prides himself foremostly on his knowledge of classic regional Portuguese cooking, and in combining that with Galician cuisine from the north of Spain, he’s developed something he’s truly proud of. “You don’t need much — olive oil and a few ingredients depending on the region you're working with,” says Manuel. “People don’t realize what local Portuguese cuisine really is. In the south, people might never hear of cumin, and in the north, people may never hear of coriander. It all contributes to the real flavour and satisfaction of things.”

Another aspect that Manuel emphasizes is the incorporation of all the elements that come with a cut of meat. “When you prepare pork in the Portuguese style, you use the bones, you use the fat, and you save it for a sauce, or add cream and hide the quality in the real ingredients,” he says. “Much in the same way when we prepare seafood, we try to get real salt water to boil it in. It’s like the bones of a shrimp — they’re spineless little things, but all their distinctiveness comes from the type of water they were raised in.”

People love to get to know something distinct, and Portugal has traditions that make it just that kind of place. - Manuel Martins, owner
Portuguese Cuisine, Northern Spanish/Galician Cuisine, Porto, Seafood, Spit-Roasted Pork, Traditional Portuguese Cooking

Reputation that Precedes

Having operated three restaurants prior to Boca Iberica and after having worked 22 years in hotel hospitality to boot, Manuel is happy to see all the old regulars come by from his former haunts. “One of my former places, Vintage on Rue St-Denis, attracted a lot of professionals and media types. It seems like they’ve all followed me here!” says Manuel. “I value their company, maybe a little more than they value mine. Everybody knows that once I start talking, I don’t seem to stop!”

Manuel’s conversational style is not for lack of knowledge to dispense. Once, he welcomed the Portuguese minister of culture to his restaurant, who remarked at Manuel’s extensive knowledge of Portugal. “I could name every little fact about every little region that he, for all his reports and prior experience, didn’t even know existed,” Manuel recalls. “I think that here, we might have lost something in the modern world — a real sense for local people, their habits, their tastes, and what makes them feel familiar and comfortable.”

Portuguese Cuisine, Northern Spanish/Galician Cuisine, Porto, Seafood, Spit-Roasted Pork, Traditional Portuguese Cooking

Decades of Expertise

Boca Iberica’s delicate flavours and sensibilities, as well as the comfortable fine dining experience it provides, will occasionally see a lineup before it even opens its doors. “One favourite we have is on Thursdays when we do spit roast pork. It’s only enough for 13 servings, and people show up as soon as we open to get their share.”

Those little special features at Boca Iberica are just some of the things that draw customers back. “People love to get to know something distinct, and Portugal has traditions that make it just that kind of place,” says Manuel. “I left there when I was 15, but everything I learned from there and my parents goes into what we do here. The fact that that knowledge can give people amazing experiences is, I think, truly great.”

Portuguese Cuisine, Northern Spanish/Galician Cuisine, Porto, Seafood, Spit-Roasted Pork, Traditional Portuguese Cooking
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