The first time I ate at Jaleo (pronounced Ha-lay-o), I was solo. I sat at the counter facing the exhibition kitchen and got to watch the chefs prepare meals. It was a lovely dining experience that left me with a favorable impression of the restaurant.
This past September, I ate there again, only this time, I had company: Julie from San Francisco, whom I met at a Las Vegas tweetup back in December 2010. We’ve stayed in touch on Twitter ever since, and she happened to be in town when I was, so we shared some meals together. Usually, I try to eat at new restaurants on every trip (for blogging material, let’s be honest), but when Julie mentioned Jaleo, I was not hard to persuade.
Truth is, I love Jaleo. I’m a fan of tapas to begin with, and the food here could not be any better. You know those restaurants that you go to regularly, and you find yourself ordering the same item off the menu every time because it’s really the only thing you like on the menu? This is not that place. Jaleo has a mind-blowing menu with plenty of variety, and almost everything looks terrific.
Another reason I love it is that it’s not as dark as most Las Vegas restaurants. Here, I can actually see the rest of the restaurant, my dining companion, the menu, and the bill—without a flashlight! It’s a miracle! I can see! I can see! Okay, I know, that’s overkill. But really, dark restaurants are a pet peeve of mine. So good on you, Jaleo.
This time out, we ate at a two-top against the back wall of the restaurant. One waitress was training another, so every time our waitress came to our table, she had someone else looking over her shoulder. I felt a little nervous on her behalf. And whenever I feel nervous, I try to lighten the mood by cracking jokes.
To start off, I ordered an iced coffee. It actually came as a shot of espresso and a glass of milk poured over ice. This was where I cracked one of my “jokes”:
“What? I have to make it myself?”
I also joked a bit about the teeny, tiny little espresso spoon they gave me—how the heck was I supposed to stir the iced coffee with what looked like a baby’s teaspoon? I think the waitresses were worried that I was upset when I said that, but no, I just thought I was being funny. Apparently, I was the only one. They handled my weirdness with grace. (As did Julie.)
Anyway, on to the food. Don’t let the whole “tapas = small plates” thing fool you. Julie and I ordered 3 items to share, all of which looked like very small amounts of food. Looks can be deceiving. Although we did finish them all, we were both too full for dessert. Which is a crime.
So when they recommend that you order 2-3 plates per person, I have to say “not necessarily”. It depends on whether you have a hearty appetite or are a light eater or whether you have someone to share it with. Last time I was here by myself, I ordered 3 plates, and that was a mistake for me. Two would have been plenty. If you’re a light eater, go with 1-2 plates, and then if you’re still hungry, go ahead and get another one–or get dessert.
What was on the menu this time out?
To start, we ordered the Ajo blanco con cangrejo y uvas, a chilled almond and garlic soup with crabmeat and green grapes. Very tasty! It was heavy on the garlic (which I love) and the spiciness was balanced by the sweetness of the grapes, with a tiny bit of crunch from the almonds. In terms of flavors and textures, it was a total winner.
Next, we had a skirt steak. The meat was tender, juicy and delicious, albeit a bit salty for my tastes. Finally, we had the Setas al ajillo con La Serena, a variety of sautéed seasonal mushrooms with La Serena cheese potato purée. This was unbelievably delicious, beyond my wildest expectations—especially the potatoes. Who ever thinks about potatoes being the highlight of a meal? And yet they were. Only at Jaleo.
All in all, it was another fantastic meal in a restaurant I have grown to love. The company was also terrific. Thanks, Julie! I highly recommend this restaurant, whether you’re dining with a new friend or going solo. The chef’s counter is a fun place to dine when you’re by yourself.