Lannae's Food and Travel

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April 24, 2006

Tapas on Top of DC

480 7th St NW
Washington, DC
Jaleo is in the same trendy area Rasika is in, Gallery Place/Chinatown of Washington, DC. Jaleo has been an honorable mention in the Wine Spectator for 3 years in a row, has been nominated for a James Beard award, and is number 2 of the top 3 most popular restaurants in the DC area according to the 2005 Zagat Guide public poll. Jaleo presents a wide variety of cold, temperate and hot tapas dishes, that you could keep coming back day after day without having the same combo twice. I love tapas and dim sum because I love little tasting dishes so that I can have lots of different tastes with each dish costing a reasonable price. If the dish stinks, then it is only tapas and I did not spend an arm and a leg on it, but if it is yumm-o, then order another one because it is tapas!

The patrons were quite noticeable because they are definitely are power brokers of the District. The older established crowd looked like they could be friends with Hillary Clinton, and they toted the D.C. 50-something uniform of classic clothing, pearl necklaces, and perfect political haircuts that would not embarrass if the paparazzi were to be around the corner. The 20-something crowd was also in force at Jaleo, and many of them were at the bar area to see who they can see on a Saturday night. They too had their uniform on, with sleek dark pants, refined power shirts, and for the woman, their hair cuts all were mid length, straight, parted on the side suggesting they buy into the power broker game. The 20-somethings who can last in this high pressure area of influence, will one day replace those 50-somethings I saw at Jaleo.

I went to Jaleo with a co-worker who is into volumes of food for cheap rather than the execution, flavor, texture, aroma and presentation of cuisine. Apparently he was mad at me because tapas are small tasting dishes and he just wants piles of calories. In general, I do not go into fine dining with people who find no enjoyment while consuming calories, but I was stuck on a work detail in the "food void" of College Park, MD all week. For me, I survived on the worst calorie intakes I have ever had in College Park, and every restaurant in College Park that I went to was basically disrespecting food resources by poorly preparing and mistreating food they way they did. I needed at least one decent meal before leaving, and Jaleo for me was a halo of food fun for me after a week of food disasters.

Jaleo’s menu is divide into cold, temperate, hot, and dessert tapas. The way I approached my visit to Jaleo was to pick one tapas from each category. I opted for a salt cod salad made with tomatos and Spanish extra virgin olive oil. Tomato and SEVOO is always a winning combo, and was a good opening tapas. The second dish I got was a tuna carpaccio with capers, pine nuts and anchovy oil and this dish was distinctive and really sent my taste buds into a happy dance. The hot tapas I ordered was a lamb chop dish that was flavorful, but was heavily sauced and maybe a bit too heavy because it did not let the natural lamb flavor come through. I decided to order orange flan because I thought it what I should do in a Spanish themed restaurant. The dessert plate was delivered with fresh whipped cream, flan, fresh orange segments and thyme sprigs. I never thought savory thyme would work with a sweet flan, but it did. What a sweet way to end my fun food adventure at Jaleo.I can see why Jaleo is one of the most popular restaurants in the District. Cost is about $5-7 per plate, combine 3 plates and you got a meal for about $20 which is a good value inside the beltway. If people are on a budget, they can get 1 or 2 dishes, and if there is a lot of disposable income, then go for many tapas and share with the table!


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