Jaleo, Las Vegas

Last year, eating at e was a highlight of my trip to Las Vegas, if not my year. As I waited to get seated, I noticed the restaurant around me – Jaleo was loud, thumping, and filled with energy and delicious smells. I saw plates of delicious looking food all over the place and swore that I would come back to eat at this tapas restaurant.

It took me a year, but finally I got there.

Jaleo was just as I remembered it; pulsating with energy and filled with the scents of garlic, roasting meat,

and huge pans of paella.

The atmosphere is hip but not snobby, filled with touches of whimsy. It would be a perfect place for a quick snack or a loud, long dinner with a group of partying friends. There is even a private room that looks perfect for a special night.

Tomatina Negroni with Campari, gin, sweet vermouth, tomato water

Anyone who likes negronis will love this. The tomato water sweetens the gin and rounds out the harsh edges of campari. The grapefruit comes through as tart rather than bitter, and the drink is refreshing and extremely food friendly. It doesn’t taste of tomato, just of sweet and fresh citrus. Highly recommended.

Patatas bravas with  spicy tomato sauce  and alioli

These aren’t the thick, traditional patatas bravas. These are thin potato chips, freshly fried and dusted with a generous helping of smoky paprika. The alioli is creamy and extremely garlicky  in a mouth-watering way. The tomato sauce provides a light, slightly spicy counterpart to the rich alioli. It tastes as if it has been infused with hot peppers, not in a fiery way but definitely in a spicy, zesty way. These are totally addictive and a must order.

Pan con tomate and Manchego

This simple dish is one of my favorites of the night. Jaleo hits the nail on the head with this totally authentic rendition of the iconic Spanish dish. Crusty bread rubbed with a clove of garlic and a cut tomato became moist but not soggy. It is soft enough to bite without shattering, but hearty enough to stand up to the tomato juice. Combined with the semi-hard cheese, it is nutty, salty, savory, and surprisingly refreshing.

Iberico Pork Burgers with piquillo peppers and alioli

That’s right. The same Iberico pork I worship in slices. Here, it is coarsely ground and loosely packed into a juicy burger. Served on a brioche bun with sweet peppers and more of that creamy alioli, it is a very meaty and almost woodsy slider.

“Bikini” Sandwiches with Ibérico ham, manchego cheese, and truffles

Heaven alone knows why this is called the bikini sandwich, because after just one of these, you can’t get into a mummu, let alone a bikini. Buttery toast cradles salty Iberico ham, gooey Manchego cheese, and aromatic truffle oil. This is one decadent grilled cheese sandwich – don’t miss it. And don’t plan to eat it all yourself – it is a bit salty and fatty, so share it to save room for more food.

Chicken Croquettes

Served in a sneaker. I have no idea why Andres does this, but I love it – it reinforces the fact that eating isn’t just refueling, it is a communal experience that should foster conversation and joy. And if these little nuggets of crispy, creamy, unmistakably chicken-y taste offer anything, it is indeed joy.

These croquettes are lighter and more complex than the garlicky, heavy ones at Porto’s. These are almost airy inside, creamy but not dense. There is the slightest hint of onion in there, perhaps some nutmeg, but most of all…its just tastes like really creamy chicken soup.

Golden fried quail eggs with ‘pisto manchego’ vegetable stew

One of our few vegetarian dishes of the night, this managed to stand out amongst all the indulgent meat and cheese courses. Perfectly brunoised vegetables like carrots, onions, and zucchini are cooked with rosemary and other aromatics until they form a tender but not mushy stew. The crowning touch is a sextet of gooey egg yolks and crispy whites

It was also served with a swipe of genuine gold dust, which no girl can ignore.

Vegetable Paella

This paella was the lone disappointment of the evening for me. A bit salty and mushy, it has none of the wonderful soccarat that I so crave. Though it is served with some more of that addictive alioli, I really can’t recommend this as a “must order” dish.

Pork and foie gras canelones with bechamel sauce

I don’t know how or why this was conceived, but I actually don’t care. This is an almost inconceivably delicious pasta dish. Thin sheets of canelloni are stuffed with sweet ground veal and earthy pate de foie gras before being blanketed in bechemel and broiled until crisp without and gooey within. It should be too rich. It should be too meaty.  It shouldn’t work…but it does. It is not too much this or too little that. It is an example of how Andres wants to do something – like, for example, deliver the world’s richest pasta dish without causing anything more than a very delayed coronary – and does it. He has an impeccable palate and has clearly trained his staff to know exactly how to execute his recipes.

His perfect, beyond compare, meaty and creamy recipes…

That’s what she said

Jaleo was delicious for all the senses. Delicious to see the pastry chefs working in the small open air dessert kitchen. Delicious to smell the dozens of small plates carried by servers that walked by our table. Delicious to feel welcomed by the enthusiastic and knowledgable staff. Delicious to hear chatter and laughter from everyone enjoying the night. And delicious to taste.

Jaleo was, in every way, worth the wait. I won’t be able to wait so long before I return.

Jaleo by José Andres (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon


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