Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jaleo by Jose Andres

For our romantic Valentines Day dinner, we went downtown to Jaleo, a Spanish tapas restaurant owned by renowned chef Jose Andres.  As soon as we saw his name we knew we had to try this place. For those who may not know who Jose Andres is, he is the one credited with bringing the whole concept of tapas or small plates to America. He is originally from Spain, owns several restaurants in DC and Las Vegas with a variety of cuisines (not just Spanish), and he was named Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation in 2011 (one of the most prestigious organizations in the foodie community). So needless to say, this guy knows his stuff.

I knew we were in for a treat but little did I know what surprises were in store for the evening.  We began with bread and olive oil. The olive oil was served with a sprig of rosemary and a whole fresh garlic clove in it.  If you've never tasted a whole fresh garlic forewarned. It packs a punch.  I dipped my bread in the olive oil and really gave it quite a soaking, hoping to get a hint of the rosemary and garlic flavor.  When I put it in my mouth and began to chew and swallow, it felt like I had just eaten a really spicy pepper! That was the burn from the fresh garlic! My tongue and throat felt singed as I tried to wash it down with my sparkling water.  It didn't even phase Superking though.  Ok, good stuff but a little potent.

Then arrived our first set of small plates.  I ordered a cheese plate with Valdeon cheese, an intense flavored blue cheese made from cow's and goat's milk served with some crunchy little breadsticks and apricots.  I'm not really a fan of apricots but combined with the cheese it was awesome! The sweet fruitiness of the apricots really cuts the sharpness of the blue.  But the blue cheese by itself was just as amazing.

Superking ordered a charcuterie plate of three different types of dried Iberian ham. Each one savory and salty and porky, served with a few pieces of bread topped with a tomato brushetta.

Then here's where the night got interesting.  We were patiently waiting for our next course when another young couple had been seated next to us and had begun receiving their first offerings.  I found it odd that their dishes seemed awfully similar to the ones we were waiting for...hmmm...Then upon overhearing their conversation they began to wonder what they had ordered and what they were being served.  Lo and behold, they had been served our plates instead. The waitress promptly realized what had happened and came to apologize saying that our dishes would be out soon.  In the mean time, a manager came over and apologized again, saying both those plates would be on him!  Awesome! Free food at a nice restaurant! What service!

Then our dishes arrive...Superking got Lomo de Buey...a sliced skirt steak served with piquillo peppers.  The steak was perfectly cooked medium rare and the peppers were somewhat sweet and uniquely complimented the steak.

I was served grilled quail with rosemary sauce and honey aioli...super yumm! The quail was like eating a tiny chicken but the meat was darker and richer, almost like a duck.  And the sauces....delish! I love rosemary and the honey aioli was sweet without being overpowering. My only disappointment was that I wish there was more!

As we were still digesting our steak and quail, the manager arrives at our table again with another plate of the steak.  He says the kitchen made an extra one in the midst of the earlier confusion so he thought we should have it.  Another free dish! Awesome!

Now time for dessert! A hazelnut chocolate mousse cake with hazelnut ice cream.  Have you ever had a Ferrero Rocher? Little balls of chocolate hazelnut goodness, one of the most awesome candies ever created.  This dessert tasted just like one of these candies except way better!!! And yes I ate every bite (though I did spare a few for Superking) including scraping the plate. So rich and creamy and a little crunch from some chopped hazelnuts. Decadence on a plate!

Then to top the whole evening off, our waitress comes out with our check explaining that she also took care of our dessert! I've never been to a restaurant with that kind of service.  They went way above and beyond for a tiny easily correctable mistake.  Multiple apologies from the waitress and the manager, prompt service, and more than half our meal was on the house!  Where else are you gonna go to get amazing food and amazing service like that?  Even if the food was mediocre (which it was far from) I would go back there time and time again purely for the generous service of the staff!

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