The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2016 Fall Dining Guide.
Has it really been 23 years? My long relationship with the best tapas restaurant this side of the Atlantic has made me so familiar with the epic menu, I decided to let unknown diners compose my last meal here. En route to my table in the dining room, dressed to humor us with necklace-wearing faux bull heads and images of leaping people at the bar, I mentally recorded what fellow diners were eating; once seated in the fun house, some of their orders became mine. Two flutes of crackling bread layered with the prized ham of acorn-fed pigs are ham sandwiches as I imagine they’re made in heaven, and I nod in agreement when a server tells me the fetching mix of green apple, shaved fennel, crisp walnuts and nutty manchego is Jaleo’s most popular salad. Giving paella a run for its money is fideua, a shallow pan of fine short noodles dappled with sweet shrimp and garlicky aioli (and hiding tender squid in the mix). The lesson: If strangers can make such good calls, imagine the scrumptiousness that follows when you get suggestions from the staff.
Jaleo: 480 Seventh St. NW. 202-628-7949. jaleo.com .
Prices: Small plates $3-$24.
Sound check: 77 decibels / Must speak with raised voice.
This review appears in The Washington Post’s 2015 Fall Dining Guide.
No D.C. restaurant fits its name better than Jaleo, which a sound check would translate as “Party!” and which still serves the finest tapas I’ve had outside Spain. Behold the glass-paved foosball tables, and bring on the salt cod fritters! From the bar comes a show-stopping, minty-fresh gin and tonic, and from the kitchen come little somethings for appetites of all persuasions, everything beautifully presented. Witness the edible painting of smoky red peppers, sweet onion and soft eggplant splashed with sherry dressing and heaped on toasted bread. Or marinated rabbit sweetened with apricot puree. Or spicy chorizo wrapped in fried potato — a pig-in-the-blanket for the ages. If you can’t ID something to like from the lot, you’re being impossible. Evenings find paellas, plus desserts that venture beyond flan to include chewy olive oil ice cream on pink grapefruit. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, if you’re tired of Jaleo, you’re tired of life.