Jaleo, at age 25, is ancient in terms of restaurant years, but she sure doesn’t act it . . . or look it. A creative re-design recently added artwork by contemporary Spanish artists, foosball tables with chairs made from Vespa scooter seats, “love tables” closed off by metal curtains, and whimsical touches everywhere, even in the restrooms, where photographed faces smile up at you from the floor. Chef extraordinaire José Andrés is 22 years older as well, and in that time has grown into a culinary and personal phenomenon, with restaurants here (Zaytinya, and Oyamel, as well as the chef’s unique and avant garde dining experience, minibar by José Andrés) and elsewhere, a cooking show, courses at Harvard, and a number of cookbooks. But it all started here at Jaleo, when Andrés introduced his versions of Spanish tapas to the capital. Andrés or his staff may fiddle with the menu of some 60 individual small plates, but you always know you’re enjoying the best tapas in the city (some say in the country, and some of the best dining in D.C). Look for fried dates wrapped in bacon and served with an apple-mustard sauce; mini-burgers made from the “legendary, acorn-fed, black-footed Iberico pigs of Spain”; and roasted sweet onions, pine nuts, and Valdeón blue cheese. Be adventurous.
- Elise Hartman Ford