Head to Dehesa for an adventurous nose-to-tail (including innards) dining experience
By Samantha Francis
Presented on a toast and drizzled with quince sauce for a touch of tart sweetness, the duck hearts were springy with a texture that resembled oysters.
When it comes to dining on offal or innards, the camp is usually divided between those who swear by the rich braised flavours of kway chap or the clear broth of zhu za tang (pig’s organ soup) and those who turn their noses at the thought of even biting into wrinkly entrails.
Dehesa, a new restaurant that serves unconventional cuts such as pig’s head and ears, is on a mission to attract both camps of diners. Helmed by Chef-Owner Jean-Philippe Patruno, the restaurant offers diners a complete nose-to-tail dining experience, with a focus on alternative cuts and “offal delicacies”.
In the words of Chef Patruno, “If we choose to cook a particular meat, whether a pig, cow, lamb or fish, we use the whole animal to honour this ingredient.”
Unconventional Parts, Interesting Textures
The platter of Cold Cuts, interwoven with a variety of flavours, is a good introduction to nose-to-tail cuisine.
The chef’s philosophy plays out in the dishes, which make full use of the animals’ parts and are full of interesting textures. Seated at the bar seats overlooking the open kitchen — likely the best seats in the house — we were first served a platter of Cold Cuts ($10) featuring parts such as lardo (cured strips of fatback), scratchings (pork rind) and fifi pâté (made from the belly, heart and liver of the hog), as well as milk-fed lamb sweetbreads (thymus and pancreas) and Iberico jowl (cured and smoked pork cheeks).
The platter, interwoven with a variety of flavours, is a good introduction to nose-to-tail cuisine. The fifi pâté was slightly coarse in texture with a salty flavour. You can have it spread on the accompanying home-made sourdough bread, and with a dash of aioli, or simply enjoy it on its own.
Chef Patruno’s culinary influences come from his Italian father and Spanish mother, as evidenced in the Duck Hearts on Toast ($10), a delightful rendition of the Spanish delicacy. Presented on toast and drizzled with quince sauce for a touch of tart sweetness, the duck hearts were springy with a texture that resembled oysters.
Locally-sourced & Home-made
Made with Arroz Cebolla rice and cooked in cuttlefish ink, the ‘wet rice’ stands out for its pleasant briny taste.
A large percentage of the vegetables used in Dehesa’s dishes come from local farms. In fact, the lala (clams) used in the Seafood Rice ($22), is of local origin too. Made with Arroz Cebolla rice and cooked in cuttlefish ink, the ‘wet rice’ stands out for its pleasant briny taste, which is more pronounced as compared to dishes cooked in squid ink.
Out of all that I’d sampled, the Lamb Sweetbreads ($22) was my favourite. Served on a bed of silky-smooth mashed potato, each morsel of milk-fed sweetbreads (lamb pancreas) was tender and moist with slightly-crisp edges — comfort food at its finest.
If you deem innards to be too exotic for you, the menu also offers sandwiches, risotto, as well as classic cuts to suit every palate. Whether you’re a fan of innards or not, Dehesa’s impeccable cooking is sure to draw you back.
Dehesa, 12 North Canal Road, Singapore 048825, Tel: 6221 7790
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of Weekender, Issue 148, March 18 – March 31, 2016, with the headline ‘Pleasant & unpretentious nose-to-tail cuisine’.