Revelling in Spanish Fare at Jaleo (Washington, DC)
Rocking up to “the nation’s capital” after a short stint in Virginia, I had five hours to kill before returning to New York. Part of that time was spent visiting the home of the leader of the free world (aka: the White House, which was smaller than expected), checking out a few galleries (which was better than anticipated) and searching for something good to eat that would stave off hunger pangs until the next morning. Wandering around DC’s busy Penn Quarter I certainly wasn’t poor for choice with restaurant after restaurant, and bistro after bistro, lining pedestrian-heavy boulevards.
In the mood for something spicy and tangy to the palate, Jaleo was the first bistro that caught my eye and successful at drawing a friend and I into its festive, bright and decorative fold. The work of chef José Andrés, Jaleo is all about creating a traditional Spanish ambiance and strives to ensure the food delivers on this promise with an assortment of tapas, light and fresh salads, hearty meat dishes, savory paellas, and a rather impressive selection of Spanish wines. There’s sangria of course, and customary delights like gazpacho and batter fried shrimp.
A place where both Intolerants and dairy/gluten loving gourmands can dig in, my dining compatriot and I mulled over the extensive menu before settling on the endive salad, seared scallops with pine nuts, grilled chicken with parsley puree and the moorish chickpea stew. Everything came out relatively swiftly and the flavours…my the flavours…well they were fantastic from the get-go.
The moorish chickpea stew – with egg on top – was fragrant, well seasoned and extremely filling. My only complaint would be that it was a tad salty, but the rich aroma and blend of chickpeas and spinach made me forget about the saltiness and dig in until I couldn’t eat anymore.
The grilled chicken was lovely and perfectly portioned, and the parsley purée (you know, I think that’s way too much alliteration for one sentence) was all at once light and tangy and served as perfect accompaniment to the smoky meat. Much to the chagrin of my lunch-mate, I managed to stick my fork into the endive salad, which was a dream. The mix of almonds, orange and goat cheese (which I avoided) struck the perfect chord on my palate and paved the way for seared scallops that were – I was told – quite delectable.
So with the combination of the good food, enjoyable ambiance and noting how busy the establishment was when we popped in, it seems DC’s Jaleo is the place to be for Spanish-inspired fare.
I mean it’s definitely worth a try, if only for the sangria.
480 7th Street, NW
Tuesday – Thursday: 11:30 – 23:00
Friday + Saturday: 11:30 – 00:00
Sunday + Monday: 11:30 – 22:00
Weekend brunch until 15:00