[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]t’s intimidating to book a seat in new restaurant Dehesa when chef-owner Jean-Philippe Patruno, formerly head chef of Spanish restaurant UNA, sends you a raw pig’s ear by means of invite. The message was clear – the intimate space along North Canal Road is meant to demonstrate the Spanish art of cooking snout.

No airs about this laid-back restaurant.

Luckily, Patruno isn’t really a gangster chef threatening diners to eat in his restaurant by waving pig ears at them. In fact, said lobes are presented as part of a platter of cold meats that include potted pig’s head, lardo and scratchings. It’s a visually appetising way to kick-start the meal on a friendly note, and continues throughout the rest of our experience there.

All of Dehesa’s signatures – pig’s head, ear, kidney and lardo – on one platter.

Take, for instance, a dish named crispy pig’s head. The name conjures unsavoury images of a lifeless beast, but what appears on the table is a prettily plated mound of shredded pork topped with a yolk-and-mushroom ravioli that oozes liquid gold over the meat. Then there’s the duck hearts, a Spanish delicacy doused in a rich brown quince sauce and placed on a piece of toast. It’s offal alright, but it’s also comfort food at its best.

Patruno is off to a good start, treading a fine line between playing it safe and having the guts to serve pig’s head on a daily basis. But what’s more interesting is the Spaniard’s adventurous spirit in letting  local produce like lala (clams) and gong gong (conch) have pride of place on his menu under the seafood section, rather than putting on a sustainably-caught fish from European waters that he can boast about. Patruno shares that he plans to put fish cheeks on his menu next, as he has been testing out ways to prepare these for some time now.

Seeing how that’s the much coveted part of a fish on a Chinese dining table, we can’t wait to see how he pulls it off.

Masterminds behind the scene: Chef-owner Jean-Philippe Patruno and The Good, Bad & Ugly Group.

Spotlight On: Dehesa Platter of Cold Meats, Duck Hearts on Toast, Crispy Pig Head

12 North Canal Road
Tel: 6221 7790