This Part Deux revisits one of our old favorites: Jose Andres's Penn Quarter mainstay Jaleo. On this trip, Official Friends of DCWD Burgh and Flo, and Official Co-Writer/Fiancee of DCWD Texas.
You have to hand it to Jose Andres: the man really knows how to up the ante. When Jaleo opened, it was a little one-of-its-kind; now everyone has tapas, and Estadio took the clubhouse lead in the "spruced-up Spanish style interior" category. So, Jose Andres shut it down and totally revamped the decor and went completely 180. Now, the design aesthetic is probably best described as ultra-modern.
The space is one that has completely transitioned: gone is the crimson and cream, replaced with a bright multi-colored theme of red, orange, yellow, and chocolate brown with hints of gray. The Spanish touches have too been changed out, with avant-garde fixtures: hexagonal sound tiles on the ceiling, or typographical blocks on the walls painted to look like chalk on black. The booths are now separated by beaded curtains, with basket-woven barrel tops over each section, and covered with billowing red light fixtures. The bar, still the focal point of the space, is now lit up by a colorful backlit piece of photo art, a cute picture of children's legs and shoes. Even the tables themselves have been replaced with more whimsical touches: some of the fours are actually foosball tables covered in glass. The re-design is at points modern, at points colonial, and at points traditional. It's fun, and an even better conversation piece than the old space.
The table decided to split a porron of clara, a mix of Estrella Damm beer and lemonade. For those readers who, like us before this dinner, do not know what a porron is, it's a pitcher that looks and acts very much like a watering can or a neti pot. Much like pouring of Moroccan tea, you're supposed to start close and then pull it farther and farther away to show your skillz. In practice, it ends up with lots of spilling but also lots of fun; we ended up laughing at each other throughout the dinner. Try at your own risk/reward. Still, the drink, essentially a shandy, tastes delicious.
There were classic hits from Jose Andres's arsenal, some that we had already seen before at minibar: cones of large salmon roe with cream cheese as a form of "bagels and lox," or liquid olives, salty green olive puree encased in a thin gel that dissolves upon the prick of your tongue. Both dishes burst wide open with each bite, and reminded us of the fun that Jose Andres can bring to even the most simple of flavors.
Then there are the moments where the kitchen takes classic Spanish flavors and morphs them into modern takes: an Iberico pork slider that takes the incredibly flavor packed meat and places them in a familiar context. There's sauteed mushrooms with potato puree, a dish that is exactly how it sounds. And then there's a rabbit confit with apricot puree, another dish that wonderfully combines the natural sugars of fruit with the beautiful caramelization of its meat.
Two chocolate desserts (chocolate flan with caramelized bread, olive oil, brioche ice cream; and chocolate hazelnut cake, praline ice cream, salted caramel sauce) close out our night.
The decor may be different (and depending on your tastes, better), but the food remains the same: fun, flavorful, and always a good time.
Food Rating: **** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 4 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Classy Crowd to Suits Scene
Vibe: Energetic to Noisy
Cost: $$$ (out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
Pairing: Is the sight of your date dousing themselves in beer by trying to drink from the porron not enough? Check out the West Wing's Richard Schiff in Hughie at the Lansburgh Theater.