2250-A Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22202
CUISINE Spanish/Tapas, Fusion
PRICE $$ ($13-$20)
HOURS Open for lunch, Tuesday through Friday, dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, late-night dining, Friday and Saturday, brunch Saturday and Sunday.
NVM AWARDS Best Restaurant 2008
Best Restaurant 2009
Best Restaurant 2010
Best Restaurant 2011
Best Restaurant 2012
NEARBY METRO Blue Line(Crystal City) Yellow Line(Crystal City)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 7.9 Ambiance: 7.5 Service: 7.1
“I’ve had three shrimp and a potato. I’m stuffed!” declared a wiry-looking woman who seemed intent on spending her remaining calories at the bodega’s weekly wine tasting.
Small plates sacked for big, fruity reds.
I get that.
The charm of Jaleo is its wonderful diversity. The popular tapas format makes mixing-and-matching contrasting yet complementary elements a breeze.
And the addition of the sensory savaging “Jose’s Way” selections—a half- dozen new recruits including fennel-apple salad, anchovy-stuffed olives shrouded in piquillo peppers and sherried Serrano ham paired with dulcet cantaloupe—should keep even veteran tasters on their gustatory toes.
Deep-fried stalks of honey-coated eggplant are garden freshness masquerading as carnival fare.
Shredded duck confit, roast breast and dreamy foie gras cream transform a molehill of rice into a mountain of carefully restrained decadence.
Fried egg, crisp chickpeas and spinach revel in a zesty Moorish stew.(November 2009)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 7.5 Ambiance: 7.3 Service: 7
Innovative Spanish remains Jaleo’s lingua franca. And it’s a culinary conversation worth carrying on.
José Andrés’ tapas stronghold continues to turn out tempting small plates that effectively communicate big ideas.
And while the mediums (seafood, meat, fowl) may be familiar, chef Ramon Martinez’s creations often relay novel epicurean messages sparked by sheer audacity.
Flash-seared tuna crowned with bacon and sunken into pureed apples cut with aged balsamic are astounding (give of the near-raw fish, crackle of the bacon are the alpha and omega of carefully calculated deliciousness).
Spicy red oil cascades down the chin upon incising a zesty chorizo enrobed in a still-hot-from-the-fryer potato sheath (a gourmet pig-in-a-blanket par excellence).
Slow-cooked swine (the fibrous medallions part easily with a flick of the tine) encircled by fresh oranges in a citrus reduction floods the senses with its sweet-savory song.
So far, every attempt at sampling Iberico de Bellota—Spain’s preeminent ham, imported exclusively by Andrés—has been met with apologies (“We’re awaiting a shipment,” one server explained) or vacant stares. Management contends that the high-profile ham remains in regular rotation.(November 2008)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 8.2 Ambiance: 7.8 Service: 7.6
Should the tapas trend dissipate tomorrow, I’m confident Jaleo will defiantly remain.
Because although it’s not el Bulli fancy, restaurateur José Andrés certainly knows how to entertain with his native foods.
Andrés’ Crystal City haunt is all high ceilings and sweeping murals (flamenco performers and romantic matadors forever dance above the half-moon-shaped bar). Patrons range from flip-flop-wearing tourists to lanyard-toting business types who come to wash away work memories over fruity drinks and exotic snacks.
A server core of mostly Spanish expats is as genuinely friendly as they are fiercely patriotic, dispensing helpful insights about favorite dishes from their youth and regional cooking styles to anyone who asks.
Bronzed trout is carefully parted, swabbed with a light pesto then expertly cinched together with a paper-thin slice of Serrano ham (que rico). Sublimely grilled chicken interwoven with wild mushrooms encircles pureed spinach and mixed herbs (huge dish, big flavors).
Seafood paella reveals saffron-laced rice (saturated, yet firm grains) studded with shellfish (giant crawfish, cherrystone clams, mussels, shrimp) and escorted by a terrific garlic aioli.(February 2006)
By Sean Murphy
While D.C.’s Jaleo always means big crowds and small plates, such is not the case at Jaleo’s new Crystal City location. Recent visits to the new incarnation found a half-empty establishment, and the pace of the place from initial greeting to delivery of drinks and food, was languid and distracted.
But this restaurant offers diners the opportunity to sit back and savor all it has to offer. Its walls are covered with large, strikingly colorful murals—the care and cost apparent in every rich detail. There are more than 50 tapas to choose from, both hot and cold, and half the fun is trying as many as possible, particularly since they seldom fail to satisfy. The pulpo a la gallega ‘Maestro Alfonso’ (octopus with paprika and virgin olive oil) is wonderful, a more authentic and intriguing appetizer than the obligatory—and boring—fried calamari one finds in most restaurants. Along those lines, where else can you find morcilla ‘Bar La Esquina’ (blood sausage with garlic sauce) to kick off a meal with an old-school flair? The cold tapas hold their own, with the aceitunas rellenas de anchoas y pimientos del piquillo (olives stuffed with anchovies and piquillo peppers) a consistent winner. Another delight is the mejilliones en escabeche (mussels marinated in vinegar and paprika olive oil), packing a clean, zesty punch. Indeed, one might do well to stick with the tapas and avoid the entrees altogether. The filete de buey à la parrilla con pimientos del piquillo confitado (grilled beef sirloin with pepper confit) was pedestrian and overcooked; and regrettably, the paella clasica—ideal to share and looking perfect, on paper—was sticky and lukewarm, as though it had been sitting under a heat lamp. And for such a pricey dish the actual portions of shrimp and mussels were unexceptional, while the diminutive Norwegian lobsters, which are nice to look at, would probably work better as a garnish.
While Jaleo in D.C. has earned its reputation as a formidable institution, the Crystal City location clearly remains a work in progress. For a “safe” night out, try one of the Spanish reds (the wine list is impressive) and stick to the tapas. No need to fix what was never broken.