Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lunch at Jaleo

Well there was a change in plans last night regarding Restaurant Week lunch. We were going to eat at Vermilion, in Alexandria, Virginia, but then we discovered that on Saturdays they serve brunch instead of lunch, and so we would be paying for eggs and hamburgers, and it didn't seem worth it to us, especially not with the drive. Thus, we made last minute plans to eat at Jaleo, a Spanish tapas restaurant that we've known about for many years. It has never failed us.

This was the Restaurant Week menu. For those of you who don't know, you can click on the photos to enlarge them, so you can actually read the menu for yourself! For $20.10 (for each person) we were allowed to order 1) one soup or salad, 2) one modernas y clasicas, 3) one pescados y carnes, and 4) one dessert. While we decided on our choices, we enjoyed some bread with olive oil. The olive oil is actually poured for you by your waiter into a little bowl with a sprig of fresh rosemary and a crushed clove of garlic.

We started with a gazpacho estilo Algeciras. The bowl was plated with diced tomatoes, diced green peppers, halved cherry tomatoes (which had been blanched and had their skins removed), crispy croutons, and parsley.

The chilled gazpacho was poured on top of this. The soup had a nice kick to it. It was bright and acidic (from the Sherry vinegar), and full of character. The textures in this really came together nicely and the flavors melded very well. We gave it an 8 out of 10, because while it was very good, it was still essentially just a fancy, cold tomato soup.

Then we had an ajo blanco con uvas, or a chilled almond and garlic soup. The bowl was decorated with lump crabmeat, green grapes, raisins, and sliced almonds, and then the creamy soup was poured on top, tableside. Each spoonful of this was smooth, rich, and creamy. It was sophisticated in a subdued manner, like the soft complexity of Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind. But while that was nice, Melanie just couldn’t stand up to the boldness of Scarlett O’Hara. Scarlett, in this case, would be the gazpacho. Thus, we had to give this a 7.5 out of 10. Good, but not quite as good as its companion.

This ensalada de remolacha con cítricos had red beets, some citrus, some Valdeón cheese, pistachios, and Sherry dressing. Salads tends not to be wowers, and this one, while decent, was not something that I would order again. There are too many better things on the menu.

This manzanas con hinojo y queso Manchego was another cold salad. It included sliced apples, sliced fennel, diced apples, Manchego cheese, walnuts, and Sherry dressing. It was very interesting, but also forgettable. Looking back now, it doesn’t stand out in my mind.

This chistorra envuelta en patata frita was spicy chorizo that was wrapped in a very thinly sliced potato, like a little “bun.” The addition of the crispy potato was fun and add a nice crunch to the dish. As for the sausage, its flavor was very bold, but for me it just wasn’t balanced. The dish was too one dimensional, and also a little salty.

These dátiles con tocino ‘como hace todo el mundo’ were dates, wrapped in bacon, breaded, and then fried. Delicious sounding, yes? And actually, we have ordered this before, but this time around I was slightly disappointed. While the dish was served warm, and the dates were soft and sweet and the breading was crispy, I just didn’t get the bacon flavor. I wanted more bacon. The flavor of the dates overwhelmed any bacon flavor. If it hadn’t been stated that bacon was there, I would not have known.

This was described as their “very, very famous tapa:” gambas al ajillo. The shrimp was simply sautéed with garlic. It had a slight smell of wine, as if white wine has been poured into the hot pan of shrimp right before it was served. Yet despite this touch, I was disappointed by the dish. The salty seafood was one dimensional, and I didn’t get any strong smell or flavor of garlic.

This salmón con purée coliflor y frambuesas was very nice. I really enjoyed the buttery seared salmon, which was perfectly cooked. Salmon is often served a little bit dry, but this dish was beautiful. The fish was moist, and it went well with the pureed cauliflower and raspberries, which we thought was a creative mix of flavors. This was an 8.5 out of 10.

This dish was called Calamares a la Romana. It was fried squid with aioli. The calamari was fine: crispy on the outside and tender on the inside (although a little light in color… it could have been allowed to fry a little longer). The aioli was missing acidity, but had a nice strong garlic flavor. It was a simple dish. Would I order again? Yes. But was I impressed? No.

This vieiras con calabaza y naranjas was delicately seared scallops, with a creamy butternut squash purée, orange segments, and crunchy pumpkin seeds. The scallops were cooked so that they were just caramelized and then removed from the pan. This left them incredibly soft and tender, and I really liked that texture. It was different from the denser, chewier texture you can get when scallops are even just a tiny bit overcooked. The dish was well balanced, with the natural sweetness of the seafood, the earthy sweetness of the butternut squash, the acidity of the orange, and the crunch of the pumpkin seeds. I was impressed with the flavors. It was also very visually appealing (as you can see). This was a 9 out of 10. I would definitely order this one again.

This lomo de cerdo con salsa de cabrales was a pork loin with roasted onion and Cabralas suace. While the caramelized onion was sweet, and the sauce was good, the meat was, sadly, dry and overcooked. I wouldn’t order it again, and I suggest you don’t either. Sometimes the flavor of a dish can make up for over-done-ness of meat, but this was not one of those cases. I was disappointed.

This dessert was a flan al estilo tradicional con espuma de crema Catalana. The flan was incredibly smooth and light. It just melted in the mouth. It was incredibly elegant. The cream Catalan was lightly whipped and sweetened and it went perfectly with the flan. This dish was perfection, it really was. A flan is a very normal dessert, it is nothing impressive, but this one managed to wow us all at the table. I believe I shall give this dish my first 10 out of 10.

This espuma de avellanas y chocolate was a chocolate mousse layered between light hazelnut cake layers, and topped with caramelized hazelnuts. Now I am not a hazelnut person, nor am I crazy about milk chocolate, but this dessert was excellent. We’ve actually ordered it a few times before, and each time we really enjoyed it. It was delicate—not dense—and there was a play on texture with the crumbs of the cake and the airy mousse and the crunchy hazelnuts. A 9 out of 10.

This was the house-made cherry sorbet. It was a revelation. I told you that my family does not like to order ice cream for dessert when we go out, but today we broke that rule. I am so glad that we did. The sorbet was incredibly crisp and bright. It was bursting with the flavors of fresh cherries, and it wasn’t sour. It was delightful. A solid 9.5 out of 10. Or perhaps a 10 out of 10. I just hesitate to give two perfect scores in one review; you may think I’m going soft. But honestly, I can think of no way that this could have been better.

All in all, it was a very nice meal. Jaleo is a business casual type of restaurant, decorated in a very Spanish style with bright reds and oranges. We will, of course, be returning.


7271 Woodmont Avenue

Bethesda, MD 20814

Tel: 301.913-0003

Overall rating for the price: 8 out of 10
**note: Jaleo has many locations, I can only speak for the address above. I am also rating based on Restaurant Week prices

1 comment:

  1. Wow! what a way to compare the gazpacho and the almond soup! The analogy between gazpacho/almond soup and Scarlett/Melanie is very interesting!