Flavourful alternative cuts of various meats, from nose to tail, that would change the way you eat.
For serious and curious foodies, and perhaps those seeking something different from the mainstream food offerings, Dehesa (which means “grasslands” in Spanish – home of the Iberico pig) is an escape from the ordinary, with its commitment to whole animal usage (alternative cuts, offal and not forgetting the well-loved classic cuts) to create distinctive, made-from-scratch and robustly-flavoured delicacies.
Dehesa is the brainchild of Chef Jean-Philippe, whose upbringing in France by his Italian father and Spanish mother introduced him to the world of culinary. Chef Jean had trained under the legendary three-Michelin-starred Nico Ladenis at award-winning and revered dining institutions Simply Nico and Very Simply Nico. He was then singled out by “Kings of Soho” Sam and Eddie Hart to take the helm of their celebrated restaurants Fino in 2003 and Barrafina in 2006.
Today, a few nights before the official launch, we sat with Chef Jean as he swiftly moves in his kitchen, eagerly chatting to us about the dishes he is preparing. He shows us fatty cuts of pork sitting in bags of spices, then promptly uses a large knife to hack off ears and cheeks – all in a day’s work. It looks like there’s a lot of physical work, but Chef Jean makes sure nothing goes to waste and the result is a culinary creativity in presenting cuts like shoulder skin, bone marrow and heart to curious diners like me.
A dish called Iberico Jowls features celeriac, a turnip-rooted celery and sweet apple, and it is cheerfully tantalising. The Dehesa Platter of Cold Meats is good to share with a few friends. It’s a colourful display of pig head, pig ear, fifi pate, homemade saucisson, pickles, soft eggs, rillons, and scratchings. Another favourite dish of mine is a bowl of local lala (cockles) served with chillies sherry, which a few of us were sure it goes well with beer.
For Chef Jean, it is all about crafting dishes using the often underrated off-cuts as well as the classic cuts, which further ignited his culinary passion and made his profession all the more interesting. He said, “I truly believe that this rebellious nature against food of the norm is what keeps diners addicted and coming back for more.”
Dehesa opened its doors on 18 December 2015 and is located at 12 North Canal Road, Singapore 048825. Opening hours are Monday to Friday lunch from 11.30am to 2.30pm; and Monday to Saturday dinner from 5.30pm till late. Private dining area available only via bookings: +65 6221 7790. Visit www.fb.com/dehesa.sg.
By Reta Lee, December 2015