|Interior of Dehesa|
Despite our love for offal and organ meat, nose-to-tail dining has not taken off in a big way in Singapore. Many diners are still squeamish about tucking into animal eyeballs, hearts and livers although the vast majority of Singaporean Chinese have no qualms about eating local-style braised pork skin and intestines (also known as “kway chap”).
We put it down to the lack of plausible nose-to-tail options although, admittedly, Wolf debuted at Club Street in 2013 only to shutter less than two years later. The offal silence was felt until Dehesa boldly came along to pick up the pieces in December 2015.
|Jean-Philippe Patruno, chef-owner of Dehesa|
Set in a low-rise commercial building on North Canal Road, the 50-seat Dehesa is presided by chef-owner Jean Philippe Patruno (“JP”), former executive chef of Bomba Paella Bar (“Bomba”) and Una Restaurant, who comes to us with strong credentials.
Born to Spanish mother and Italian father, JP was brought up in France but spent 22 years of his cooking life in London where eight years were with the Hart brothers opening sought-after restaurants including Fino (circa 2003) and Barrafina (circa 2006) and then Quo Vadis (circa 2008).
For his solo venture with the The Good, Bad & Ugly Group, JP has distilled a burnished, pub-like space with banquettes, a beautifully tiled long table and an L-shaped counter where the chef plies his Spanish-inspired nose-to-tail trade in a succinctly-worded menu of “snacks”, “cold cuts’, “swine”, “offal”, “seafood”, “vegetables”, “egg” and “desserts”.
|Dehesa platter of cold meats|
For starters, look no further than the Dehesa platter of cold meats (S$32), a daily-changing collection of mostly homemade charcuterie headlined by JP’s subtly flavoured pig’s head terrine (to ensure zero wastage, JP uses all parts of the head including ear, nose and jowl) studded with gelatinous bits; an intensely savoury chunk of “fifi” pate (a pate made from pig’s belly, heart, liver and kidney) drizzled with the pate’s own gele fragranced with extra virgin oil; velvety films of melt-in-the-mouth lardo; as well as crisp, deep-fried pork scratchings. Served with house made sour dough and garlic aioli, this charcuterie board is perfect for a group of four although our party of two wiped the platter clean in a matter of minutes. (4.5/5)
|Duck hearts on toast|
If the platter were JP’s signature, then the duck hearts on toast (S$13) are the restaurant’s pieces de resistance. JPs’ approach to this cardiac cuisine is relentlessly rustic. The duck hearts are flash-seared, cooked in red wine reduction and sweetened with a touch of quince. Served drowned in an intoxicatingly delicious cooking sauce over a gigantic piece of house made sour dough, the hearts are succulent, gamely sweet and not-at-all chewy. (4.5/5)
Now that you’ve eased into offal, go full on with Frit Mallorquin, a toothsome Mallorca specialty of bite sized lamb’s heart, kidney, liver and sweet bread perfumed with capsicum, onions, garlic and chervil. A JP-introduced fixture on the menus of Fino (London) and Barrafina (London), the lamb offal arrive perfectly hearty, springy and succulent. It’s a rustic dish that JP has down pat although neither the picture nor the description does it justice. Order it. (4.75/5)
|Pig’s head terrine|
Fear not if lamb body parts are not for you, pork parts prevail in crispy pig head (S$28), a dish prepped with pig’s ears, nose and jowl. The meat is first molded into a ball with capers, then breaded, deep-fried and served crowned with a disc of raw yolk. On the palate, it yields a moist, mostly meaty, part fatty, part-crispy sensation that gives nothing away about the offal used. If you’re new to animal offal, we highly recommend this as an induction to Dehesa. (4.25/5)
It’s true that diners who make the schlep to Dehesa should not be blindsided by the seafood offerings, not matter how well executed they are. But for the sake of a balanced diet, or for that friend who scoffs at nose-to-tail, consider some of the toothsome seafood that harks back to JP’s days at Bomba.
|Octopus, ratt potatoes, lardo|
Spanish octopus (S$28) arrives on a bed of crushed ratte potatoes studded with anchovies and capers. For added hydration, JP crowns it with a thin film of torched lardo so that it is unlike any octopus you’ve had. (4.25/5)
Or, from the specials’ menu, the carabineros cooked a la plancha with nothing more than garlic in an aromatic reduced prawn and chicken stock that demands to be slurped. If slurping is deemed offensive, wipe up the broth with whatever is left of your crusty sour dough bread. (4.25/5)
The array of seafood may hint at Dehesa’s desire to be an across the board crowd pleaser. But that should not detract from the fact that, truly, Dehesa is at the vanguard of nose-to-tail in our little red dot. JP’s cooking is accomplished and his menu offers a solid-enough selection of offal to please even the most discerning organ meat-foodie.
Brace yourselves for a delicious nose-to-tail ride, Singapore.
12 North Canal Road, Singapore 048 825; +65 221 7790 | dehasa.com.sg
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.