While shopping in Bethesda, Maryland, I spotted Chef José Andrés’ restaurant, Jaleo. Aly and I discovered that it was Bethesda’s restaurant week and subsequently went crazy over the impressive prix fixe menu. I probably would have given up my first born for the scallops and romesco sauce, but luckily, it was only $15/person.
Endibias con queso de cabra y naranjas: Endives with goat cheese, oranges and slivered garlic chips. This was so refreshing for the ridiculously hot day. The crisp endive created the perfect vessel to hold the juicy oranges, tangy cheese, and crunchy garlic that almost fooled me into thinking it was a toasted almond. Not on my watch, garlic. Dátiles con tocino ‘como hace todo el mundo’: Fried dates wrapped in bacon that you will want to eat every day. I thought that these little nuggets didn’t need the fried exterior. While it did a good job of encapsulating the salty bacon and sweet, chewy date into one piece, it also masked the flavors. I picked off the fried shell and ate the filling by itself. And then I ate the fried part. No crispyness left behind.Manzanas con hinojo y queso Manchego: Sliced apples and fennel salad with Manchego cheese, walnuts and Sherry dressing. Salads usually skimp on the best ingredient: cheese. This salad, however, was packed with julienned manchego and I therefore avoided the need to stab Aly’s hand with my fork to get some. Each component heightened the flavors of the other, and the toasted walnuts truly brought this dish to another level. Sans nuts, it was light, cool, and liquoricey. The walnuts added a smoky, richness that really brought the salad to another level. I will be recreating this dish in the near future. Chistorra envuelta en patata frita: Slightly spicy chorizo wrapped in a crispy potato. This was Aly’s favorite. The potatoes successfully maintained their crispness, despite the sweet honey glaze on the chorizo. The chorizo’s spice paired nicely with the honey. It was really a spectacular combination of flavors and textures.Seared diver scallops with basil pesto and classic romesco sauce. This was my favorite dish, and also Aly’s entree. I couldn’t stop eating it and kept asking, apologetically, for one more bite. I should have been apologizing to the salmon I was neglecting. The giant scallops, perfectly caramelized and soft, were placed atop the most addicting romesco sauce I have ever had. The sauce was like butta. It contradicted itself. Rich yet light, smoky yet citrusy, velvety yet full of tomatoes and herbs. So damn yummy. The presentation was also beautiful. Salmón con coliflor y frambuesas: Seared salmon with cauliflower purée and raspberries. While I loved the cauliflower and sweet raspberry sauce and scraped the plate clean with my spoon [I'm classy, what can I say?], the scallop dish was the star. Sorry, salmon. You were delicious, but the scallops just kicked your ass. Any other day I would have swooned for the perfectly-cooked salmon, but when placed next to big, meaty, sexy, romesco-dripping scallops, it doesn’t stand a chance. I should note, however, I really enjoyed the little pieces of cauliflower and raspberry on the plate, indicating their presence in the purées. Nice touch.
The service at Jaleo is also worth noting. The waiter was friendly, excited about the menu, and very knowledgable. The decor was bright and airy, with gorgeous slate blue chairs. Chef Andrés: please bring Jaleo to Miami. It would thrive here.