Sunday, December 2, 2012

JALEO: Spanish Tapas in DC

Quite simply, this was one of the best meals I have had in a long time...a really long time. It's hard to put it into words because all I can come up with are cheesy superlatives like "amazing" "delicious" and the like. Jaleo is a Tapas restaurant overseen by celebrity Chef Jose Andres. Renovated in March 2012 to coincide with its 20th Anniversary, the decor and the food is fun, provocative and just plain delicious.

It's not fancy, it's trendy. It's an authentic slice of Spain in the heart of DC. When I visited in October there were more than a few Spaniards at the Restaurant: they had obviously got the memo this was THE place in the nation's capital for a real bite of Spain.

First of all, we need to talk about the quality of the ingredients. I have always had a personal gripe with American ingredients, I find they can be bland. But Jaleo imports many of their specialty items like anchovies and patanegra from Spain and the difference in flavor is indescribable. It feels like your palette has been living in black and white and all of a sudden everything has exploded into technicolor. Yes, it's that good!

Endive with Oranges, almonds and goat cheese...who knew it could be this good?

Bunuelos de Bacalao: There was liquid Bacalao inside this, the outside covered in honey aioli

Store bought anchovies in the U.S. can be overly salty, rather skimpy looking and dare I say it "hairy", making us think that anchovies are not that great a product. But restaurants like Jaleo are here to remind us that yes they are, in fact they are amazing, unctuous, meaty, and extraordinarily tasty...when they are imported from Spain.

Of course, there's always Patanegra, the traditional Spanish ham served on Panne con Tomate (bread... delicious crusty bread, with diced tomatoes) so good it could make grown men cry. Fatty, salty, melt in your mouth deliciousness.

Many of the dishes on the menu here are typical Spanish comfort food with an artistic flair. But the absolute highlight, I specify because there were many throughout this lunch, was dessert. I was fortunate to taste two desserts: "Pan Con Chocolate" which is a chocolate flan with caramelized bread, olive oil and brioche ice-cream and "Flan El Estilo Tradicional De Mama Marisa Con Espuma De Crema Catalana" a classic Spanish custard with espuma of catalan cream and oranges. I could tell you about the delicate interplay of flavors, or the master craftsman who created this miracle of a dish out of such simple ingredients but it would all boil down to this: it was mind-blowingly good!

Flan El Estilo Tradicional De Mama Marisa Con Espuma De Crema Catalana

Pan Con Chocolate

If you are a foodie, you need to check out Jaleo. And even if you're not a food enthusiast, after a meal here you will soon become one. Some meals are fabulous but you forget about them, others live on in your memory as this one will for me. When you're next in D.C. by all means visit the museums, look at the White House  but there is also a new mandatory stop in the guidebook and that's a meal at Jaleo!