Here’s how this story goes: from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico to County Line Road.
A friend recommended that I visit Boccado’s, touting the new-to-the-area island cuisine. Intrigued, I was happy to oblige.
Mildred Lebron greeted me as soon as I walked into the restaurant, tucked into the strip center behind the former Beagle Bagel original location (future home to Doe’s Eat Place).
I quickly found a seat and sat down to take it all in. The restaurant has a certain vibe when you walk in. There’s fun music playing, but not too loud. It’s elegant in an approachable, neighborhood place sort of way with paintings and art on the wall, and a neutral color palate that’s peaceful and warm. There’s a nice bar, too, stocked with all the fixings for their cocktail menu that, as we’ll discuss, calls for fresh ingredients.
Lucky for us, a new opportunity and personal relationship brought Lebron from San Juan to Ridgeland.
An Eclectic Menu Inspired by a Lifetime of Experiences
Upon first glance, the menu offers an intriguing variety: pasta, oxtail, goat, crab cakes and much more. It’s an eclectic array, to say the least, but when Mildred told me her story, it all made perfect sense.
As I settled in for a hearty sampling, I visited with her in between dishes and learned more about the various influences that created the menu she’s serving at Boccado’s.
Born in the Dominican Republic, she later moved to Puerto Rico where she operated a restaurant for many years in the heart of San Juan with her brother and daughter.
First Things First: The Mojito is Legit.
The whole menu looked impressive, but the mojito was the first thing that called my name. Mildred promised it would be the best I’d ever had. It was fabulous. Boasting plenty of kick, this is a real deal mojito featuring two kinds of rum and enough cane sugar muddled fresh mint to taste its signature crisp clear flavor. It’s finished with a splash of soda water and lime.
It actually was the best I’ve ever had – including ones I’ve had in the islands. It came served in a gold-rimmed cup, that almost made me feel like I was on the porch at a dear friend’s house. Maybe I almost was.
All About the Flavor
I’d signed up to taste several dishes to the general vibe of the menu. From a smoked salmon pasta to a rice and bean dish to goat, oxtail and desserts that could headline any dessert menu in town, this menu is simply a playful reflection of Mildred’s personal journey in Caribbean, Italian and other cuisines.
While I was waiting on my appetizers to come out, whipped butter and herb combo was served with a plate of bread. Yes, the butter was the hero here: silky smooth and packed with flavor. I was delighted to taste the light bright flavor in the butter, and it was just a hint of what was to come.
The crab cake was crispy, fried on the outside and crabby and meaty in the center. It was served with a pinch of salad enhanced by pickled red onion that was sweet and sassy.
I haven’t had goat in 20+ years, so I’m not really a connoisseur. But it was fantastic. Kid was served on a plate with a red wine reduction on the side that was fairly inconsequential on its own. However, dip the meat in the sauce for a magical flavor event. This dish has a bit of heat, and to assuage any fears: the meat was quite tender with the texture of a fully cooked roast still held together loosely before attacked with a fork.
I soon found that the only thing more tender would be the oxtail which cooks for hours – and was also, packed with great flavor.
My favorite dish of the night was“Linguini a la Mildred” pasta dish. Screaming with earthy flavors from mushrooms, fresh garlic and bright fresh herbs, it won the night. The lightly smoked salmon tied the dish up with a virtual flavor bow.
Flavor certainly wasn’t lacking in any dish. Much like a friend with a strong opinion, you always knew where each dish stood.
Where the International Community is Eating
Boccado’s is attracting the attention of the international community, a variety of ethnicities all gravitating towards the bold flavors and flair being served at Boccado’s International Cuisine. I get the attraction, and you will, too.
I had a stellar evening of food adventure in a warm and inviting environment. It’s true that restaurants in shopping centers like this one have a more difficult time expressing who they are, without the benefit of a standalone location or added signage. Don’t judge this book by its cover, and give it a try. I trust that Boccado’s will quickly capture your culinary heart as it did mine.