Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I got the chance to spend the first four days of 2011 in Vegas, and my favorite spot that trip was José Andrés' Jaleo. I really wasn't sure what to expect from the Jaleo empire, but from what I'dexperienced at The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel, I knew I'd be in for a treat. It's rare for this to happen, but I loved every single thing I ate. I didn't get to hit up their back-room tasting menu, but what I had was enough to convince me to set aside the $150 next time and experience é.

The space itself is beautiful. The vibrant colors, spectrum of textures, and artistic layout not only lent itself towards a casual dining experience, but also previewed the food that we were about to enjoy.

But before we could order food, the animated atmosphere got us in the mood for some sangria.

The Sangria de Vino Tinto was welcomingly straightforward and traditional, as if respecting one of Spain's signature drinks. Each soft swig took me back to the months I spent in Madrid and other parts of Spain, drinking either wine, cava, or sangria with nearly every meal. It was refreshing, clean, and easy to drink, but I had to restrain myself from drinking too quickly, not because my parents were there, but because we wanted to save some to drink with the food.

After placing our orders, our food either came out ridiculously fast, or time went by ridiculously fast. Jaleo has a passion and vibrancy to it that leaves very few seconds to boredom. Everything from observing the multiple open kitchens to seeing other people's orders arrive in plates shaped like shoes and hands (seriously) made the entire dining experience undoubtedly unique.

I wanted to order the whole menu, but after discussing our options with the kind waitress, we settled on a handful of dishes.

There was no way I wasn't going to order the Aceitunas Rellenas Aceitunas 'Ferrán Adrià'. This is probably the closest I'll get to a Ferrán Adrià original in the near future. The stuffed homemade olives were amazing, with the roasted piquillo peppers offering a slightly charred base to a nice, briny, and salty kick from the anchovies.

The last time I saw a picture of these liquid olives, they were more of an avocado green color. These, however, were a deep rose color, and were a great way to contrast the rich green color of the homemade olives.

I only sacrificed one of these liquid olives for this picture because the real experience is popping the liquid olive in your mouth. The liquid form allows for the flavor to seep into every taste bud and ride down your throat like honey. The experience is strange at first, but quickly gets addictive. Eating the liquid olives with the homemade olives was a fun way to confuse and give a little jolt to my taste buds in preparation for the rest of the meal.

The Croquetas de Pollo, like the sangria, was a tribute to the simple pleasures of Spanish cuisine. No liquid croquetas came with this dish, but these chicken fritters opened up to contents just as delicious.

The innards, for lack of a better word, were gooey, cheesy, and unreflective of how crispy and perfectly fried its casing was. The chicken was stringy and at times, just as gooey as the rest of the insides. I ate tons of this stuff when I was in Spain, but this was my favorite.

The Ensalada de Coles de Bruselas con Albaricoques, Manzanas y Jamón Serrano was beautiful. Warm, bright, green, fluffy brussel sprout leaves bounced in the plate with apples, apricots, grapes, and Serrano ham. Each brussel sprout leaf was delicious on its own, but the perfect bite was irresistible.

The brightness and texture of the fruits balanced well with the chewy and fatty richness of the Serrano ham, while the slight bitterness of the warm brussel sprouts covered in olive oil added a strong, comforting base to the dish.

I will say that I was disappointed when I saw that the Arroz a Banda con Bogavante didn't come out on a huge paella pan, but the plating was undeniably beautiful.

The lobster was perfect. While some might complain that you have to use your hands to get to the meat, I say grow up and have some fun ripping into the lobster. Tapas are often about finger foods, and this was no exception. The paella rice was texturally perfect, but just a bit too salty. The saltiness didn't stop me though.

At this point, everything we had ordered had made its way out. I looked up at my parents, and they were already waiting for the waitress to bring back the menus, like kids waiting to get on Space Mountain. Though we wanted to order a ton more, we had to limit ourselves to two more items because we had a show to catch.

One of the other things I ate every single day in Spain was white asparagus, so I couldn't pass up the Espárragos Blancos con Limón y Tomillo. One of the chef's signature presentations is in a tin can, which he often does to pay tribute to Spain's renown canned goods. This tin can came with a generous portion of white asparagus deliciously seasoned with lemon and thyme. Sitting on top of the asparagus was an equally generous portion of fluffy strands of Idiazábal cheese. The milky and delicate cheese melted on contact and balanced out the the acidity of the lemon. The thyme added a familiar depth to the bright white asparagus. Every bite was delicious and I quickly found myself scraping the bottom of the can.

Our last dish, Gambas al Ajillo, was also one of the best. The technique behind this Spanish staple is simple: sautée some shrimp with some garlic. This rendition blew my mind.

Each shrimp bursted with garlicky flavor. The dish had a perfect amount of heat coming from some chiles and the simple combination of herbs really added a lot of depth to an already delicious dish. This dish, along with the other more traditional dishes, showcase how José Andrés can stay true to the classics, but still update them in texture, flavor, and presentation.

The word "jaleo" is what Spaniards call the audience's shouts of encouragement during flamenco performances, and this restaurant takes up that term for good reason. The food encapsulates the fiery passion, vibrant showiness, and friendly camaraderie of flamenco, which in turn encapsulates the life and culture of Spain. In other words, through its food and atmosphere, Jaleo reminds the diner of the necessity of good company and a genuine, and sometimes rowdy, passion for life.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 698-7950

GET: As Much of the Menu As You Can Afford or Stomach.


  1. Ohhh this makes me really excited for Bazaar. Though noooo to wasted olive pop!


  2. HAHAHAAHAHA, how did you remember that the natto mameshiba talked about white asparagus fingers?? Amazing. SO pumped for SAAM.


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