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Lala with chillis and sherry
Suckling pig with quince and smoked ratte potatoes
Dehesa platter of cold meats
Torijas with plum sauce and crème fraiche

Nose-to-tail with a Spanish touch

After the closure of The Prive Group's Wolf, hardcore carnivores have found themselves hungry for a kitchen daring enough to offer hearts, brains and livers to devour. Enter Dehesa, the North Canal Road restaurant by former UNA head chef Jean-Philippe Patruno.

'Dehesa' refers to the grassland habitats of Iberian hogs, but you won't find yourself grazing on tapas portions at this restaurant. You’re more likely to pull and tear at the saucy off-cuts and innards, which Patruno expertly strips of aggressive funk. 

Duck hearts on toast ($13), soused in a rich, sticky and sweet sauce on bread, is no gamier than a rare steak. Nubs of lamb sweetbreads atop a sloppy pile of translucent potato crisps, mash and gravy ($25) have a texture somewhere between fat and meat, and a flavour much less wild than the more commonly eaten cuts of lamb. 

It isn't until we get to the dense wedges of ox hearts ($17) – with a herbal tang not dissimilar to a Chinese medicine concoction – that it begins to feel overwhelming. But it's promptly taken off the bill when we so much as enquire about the way it's cooked. 

But for palates unaccustomed to offal, Dehesa's done very well in championing the glory of cast-aside insides. Find evidence of this in the crispy pig's head ($28) – it's topped by a ravioli, which you're meant to slice open to drench the egg yolk and mushroom paste filling over the pulled pork-resembling meat. Even though you're supposed to order your own dishes rather than poke at a communal bowl, the menu is formatted like a small plates establishment. 'Not like anyone really cares,' says our friendly server. And we wish we hadn't for the pig's head.  

To scuttle back to more familiar territory, there’s also Mediterranean fare that speaks to Patruno's Italian-Spanish heritage. His Jamon Iberico-filled egg tortilla ($17) is a lovely version that harks of breakfast. And the platter of cold meats ($32) – there’s potted pig's head, liver-kidney-belly terrine, lardo, saucisson and scratchings – strikes a happy balance between bold and tame, though we didn’t like forking out an additional $4 for three slices of bread. It's also a shame that Patruno didn’t port over the hearty paellas he's best known for.

And you should skip the seafood. The dish of lala clams ($15), cooked here with sherry, presents an underwhelming broth with dishwater connotations. A lardo-covered tentacle of octopus, plated on fork-smashed potatoes and capers ($28), is a too-tender killjoy that takes the fun out of biting on the meaty feeler, lardo be damned.

Those aged and bottled cocktails ($18) sound sexy, too. But we'd recommend ordering a glass of sherry ($15-$21/glass, $45 bottle) or house wine ($13/glass, $68/bottle) instead, then skip down to 28HKS, Vasco and Ah Sam in the neighbourhood for tipples after. 

Home in immediately on those people-watching perches in the terrace-like front on a breezy night out, or one of the bar seats that offer an immediate view of the smiley chef and his team at work. Patruno came to Singapore in 2012 to head the kitchens of Bomba Paella Bar and UNA, and now his first solo effort is being cheered on by the local F&B fraternity – it's not difficult to see why.

By: Natasha Hong


Venue name: Dehesa
Address: 12 North Canal Rd
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-midnight; Sat 5.30pm-midnight; Sun 11.30am-4pm
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