Though I frequent Jose Andres’ other restaurants—Zaytinya, America Eats Tavern, Oyamel—I’d not visited Jaleo in years. So, naturally, I decided to head there for brunch, and invite along Heather and Josie, two blonde bombshells who are on the board of The Madison with yours truly.
We were all late (no surprise), and were seated at a round tiled table in the middle of the restaurant. The ambiance aims to be reminiscent of Spain, with bright colors (yellow, red, blues and whites) and lots of festive mosiacs. However, the large, open space is not overly decorated.
Heather, who is a very talented production designer at True Line Publishing, says of the space, “The ambiance was nice and casual. The restaurant was very festive in decorations (loved our tiled table—very unique!) and the atmosphere was equally fun enough to recap loudly about our prior weekends.”
The two-page brunch menu is small yet sufficient, and the lunch menu is also available during brunch hours. We began with rounds of Mimosas de Frutos Rojos (read: berry mimosas) and coffee. We were all happy to try a variation on the traditional mimosa. The cocktail was made with fresh berries and champagne, and was thankfully not overly sweet.
The first dish we ordered was the Tostada con salmón ahumado y huevo duro, smoked salmon on crisp while toast, smothered with goat cheese and topped with hard-boiled egg, and capers. This first dish was by far the best—fresh salmon paired with warm creamy goat cheese and still hot toast. The chef did a spectacular job of taking a traditional dish with reliable flavor pairings—lox, cream cheese and capers on a bagel—and making it his own with a special twist. From now on, I’ll be having my lox on toasted French bread rather than a bagel.
Josie, girl-about-town, president of The Madison and event planner at the Ronald Reagan Building, agrees, saying, “The salmon dish blew me away. I wanted to order more!”
Then, on to a more Spanish tapas dish with the Bombas de la Barceloneta, mashed potato fritters with a goat cheese and a Catalan pork sausage center. These were the least popular item on the table. For starters, the waitress (more on her later), described them as “goat cheese potato fritters” and neglected to mention the pork sausage center. (We had closed the menu and were gossiping.) So, I leapt at the words “goat cheese” and “fritter.”
Thankfully, when they arrived, I cut them open before biting, noticing the pork sausage inside before compromising my morals. In a city filled with health-conscious women with its fair share of animal-loving liberals, Jaleo should be a bit more vegetarian-conscious. It’s certainly not the reason D.C. was dubbed “most vegetarian-friendly city.” But, regardless of your opinion on that, quality restaurants should train their staff to be aware of the menu items and courteous of dietary restrictions. (Remember the days when you could trust your waitress?)
Then, came the olive oil pancakes, served with honey, rather than syrup, and a very small portion of fruit. The fruit was fresh, and I would have liked more. The pancakes were delicious—I could tell they were made with olive oil. Personally, I would have preferred syrup to honey, but I can appreciate the desire for differentiation. Meanwhile, Heather thought it was a “nice twist on a classic breakfast item.”
We also ordered the revuelto de queso and setas, scrambled eggs with enormous fresh, wild mushrooms and manchego cheese. This was a phenomenal dish and I would definitely go back and order it again. Adds Heather, “This was my favorite dish for its amazing mushrooms. It was the perfect combination of savory and cheesy while not being too filling.”
Because I had run 10 miles that morning (I am training for the Boston Marathon in April), I was starving. So, I ordered some beet soup all to myself (I’m totally on a beet kick). Much to my dismay, the waitress forgot to place the order, and I waited a good 20 minutes to quench my hunger. When it did finally arrive, the soup was impressive: enormous chunks of roasted beets, mandarin oranges and goat cheese, covered with a chilled beet soup poured by the server. A happy conclusion to a roller coaster brunch filled with ups-and-downs.
The Bitches say: B. Brunch was yummy, but the tapas brunch at Estadio is far better. We enjoyed the food, but it was nothing ground-breaking, and the service was sub-par.
480 7th St. N.W.