Jose Andres’s Jaleo gets a facelift

The D.C. restaurant that’s most overdue for a facelift? My vote goes to the original Jaleo in Penn Quarter. And it appears I’m not alone in that assessment. Visionary chef Jose Andres yesterday announced plans to transform his tired-looking tapas bar into a destination representative of modern Spain.

“We have been nearly 20 years in Penn Quarter,” the chef e-mailed from Los Angeles, where he taped Tuesday’s “Conan” show on TBS. “So much has changed around us. Jaleo remains our heart in DC. And we want to put Jaleo on the path for the next 20 years.”

Details are still being finessed, but Andres is considering closing the restaurant after Restaurant Week in late January for about two weeks. A preview of the draft design and interviews with insiders reveal a blend of playfulness and chic, a room dressed with a foosball table and outsize photographs as well as orange and yellow tiles over the bar and see-through beaded curtains separating the booths.


Jaleo in Penn Quarter: Goodbye sombrero cordobes. (Sarah L. Voisin/WASHINGTON POST)

The menu is expected to be massaged, too. “We are looking at some new dishes, new drinks,” grounded in “authentic flavors and ingredients,” writes the top chef.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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