Jaleo has become a bit of an institution in Washington DC. Not only because of the type and quality of the food, as it was one of the first restaurants in the area to popularize Spanish tapas, but also because of owner Chef José Andrés who has gained an international reputation for his humanitarian work.
As I have mentioned before, I love Spanish tapas. Tapas are small plates intended for sharing. As such, I only tend to go to such restaurants when I have guests in town. Otherwise, I feel I don’t get the full tapas experience. Fortunately, I recently had the opportunity to take a friend to Jaleo, which is well known in the DC area for its tapas.
I have been meaning to go to Jaleo for quite some time. Not only does it have a stellar reputation, but also because I have long admired Chef José Andrés for his humanitarian work. He is the founder of World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that provides meals in disaster areas. His work has been featured in national publications such as Time Magazine. This has more local ties than you might expect, as the inspiration for José Andrés was another nearby non-profit: DC’s Central Kitchen, which services the homeless.
My friend and I were there for lunch. We started our meal with some Sangria, always a favorite of ours, getting a pitcher. It did not disappoint. The quality of the wine was quite good, although I could have used a little more fruit. But overall I was satisfied.
There is a set menu offered for lunch and we decided to go with that. There are 4 sections of the menu from which to pick, so we selected 2 items from each. From the first section, we chose the Gazpacho soup and endive stuffed with goat cheese, orange, and almonds. The soup was served in a glass, which I found a bit of a surprise. It wasn’t bad, but I enjoyed the endives far much more.
Next up was Setas al ajilo (mushrooms in garlic sauce) and Dátiles con tocino (bacon wrapped dates). Both were excellent, but the mushrooms were by far the superior dish. The mushrooms were tender and the garlic sauce was divine. It was my favorite item on the menu.
Our third course was Gambas al ajilo (shrimp in garlic sauce) and the “Daniel Patrick Moynihan”, a pork sausage served with white beans. Moynihan was a long term Congressional Senator from New York and we got the sausage in his honor. Like the mushrooms, the shrimp in garlic sauce was divine. The sausage was also quite good, with the beans and white sauce being a surprisingly tasty accompaniment.
For dessert, I went with a classic flan while my companion chose one of her favorites, a lemon sorbet. I am not a huge fan of flan, as often they are not creamy enough. But when I go to a Spanish restaurant, I like to go for traditional flavors something traditional. Jaleo’s was very well made. My companion also quite enjoyed her sorbet, served with biscotti.
So was Jaleo worth the hype? Absolutely. The food was exceedingly well made; quite sumptuous. The price was reasonable as well, only $22 per person plus the cost of the pitcher of wine. And the service was quick and courteous. You cannot go wrong with a meal at Jaleo.