Story by Janna Khoo | Photos by Janna Khoo & Sherilyn Chong
Liver. Kidney. Brain. Just the thought of consuming such things may leave one nauseous. Yet these organs, which are often thought to be undesirable, are spun into mouth-watering dishes in nose to tail eating.
Hailing from France, and of Spanish-Italian heritage, 45-year-old Chef-owner Jean-Philippe Patruno has 30 years of experience under his belt. After dropping out of school at the tender age of 14 to pursue his love for cooking, Patruno found himself moving to England three years later, where he spent over 20 years working at several restaurants.
Flash-forward to 2017, Patruno is now the owner of Dehesa, a nose to tail eating restaurant based in North Canal Road, Singapore. Dehesa is Spanish for ‘grasslands’. Incidentally, the Spanish grasslands are home of the Ibérico (black Iberian) pig, which is a high quality meat produce used in nose to tail eating. True to its name, Dehesa offers a wide range of alternative cuts and offal dishes, of which many make use of the Ibérico pig.
“It’s a way of respecting the animal, of respecting the environment,” says Patruno.
In Singapore, produce is mostly imported. Hence, bringing in only small portions of an animal each time leaves a lot of carbon footprint. At Dehesa, they try to make use of 80% of each animal so as to minimise wastage. From the head, ears, intestines and kidneys, to more common cuts like the loin and chop, they use it all.
One delectable example on the Dehesa menu would be their popular Crispy Pig’s Head. Making use of the entire head, from the ears to the jowl, the dish is one that — according to the chef, himself — everybody likes, and it represents what Dehesa is about — using everything to make something great.
While the thought of ingesting any of those parts may not sound palatable, Patruno affirms that it is indeed the thought that holds one back from giving the unusual delicacies a try.
“People are scared because of the name,” Patruno explains. “Ox’s heart, if you don’t know it is the heart, tastes like a very nice part of a steak. It’s a beautiful dish, but people are still traumatised by it and it’s a shame because it’s really really good.”
With regard to where the future will take them, Patruno expressed that after being open for 15 to 16 months, Dehesa is now stable, and he is looking at opening another place that appeals more to the mass market in the next four to five months. More targeted at busy lunch goers, it will carry and cook produce from Spain and France, such as rotisserie, cheese, wine, and more.
Although it remains to be seen if this quirky cuisine will pick up in Singapore, it is definitely a must-try for all who can stomach the thought. If you find that it does not suit your palate, there are many other dishes on the menu that are less unusual that may tickle your taste buds. What are you waiting for? Grab a friend, set a date, and pig out!
Here's a sneak peak of what to expect at Dehesa!