Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tasting Notes from Las Vegas: Jaleo

A few nights ago I had the pleasure of eating at Jaleo, one of the restaurants by well-known Spanish chef Jose Andres.  Most of his career has been here in the US, he's got at least six restaurants, a bunch of cookbooks, and a PBS series called "Made in Spain."  If you're not familiar with him, I'd highly recommend you check out his show and particularly his book Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America.  I've enjoyed this book as a good introduction to tapas - nothing too intimidating and most of the ingredients are easily accessible.

Now, on to the good part...I wish I had a camera so I could show you exactly what we ate instead of just telling you about it.  Here's the menu if you want to see all of the offerings.

Empanadillas with Brandade and Honey
These were slightly different than most of the empanadas I've had in the past- they used a wonton like wrapper instead of a short dough...  I can't say that I loved this alteration, but the filling made up for it!  I've never had brandade so smooth, so creamy, and so rich before.  It was the texture of warm, ripe, brie.  And it was spectacular with the honey drizzled over it.  (Brandade is typically a puree of salt cod, potato, garlic, and olive oil.)

White Asparagus with Idziabal, Lemon, and ThymeThe most interesting thing about this dish was the presentation.  The combination of flavors was good as well, and I love Idziabal cheese.  It was served in an oval sardine can sort of thing, with the lid set off to the side.  Very nifty.

I was hesitant about ordering this, considering it's February, but when a bowl arrived at the table next to us, I just couldn't resist.  I could smell it from where I was, and they obviously enjoyed it entirely.  It was intense cucumber, pepper, and tomato.  It was ridiculous how smooth the soup was, and the amount of sherry vinegar was very bold- on the border of being too much, but in the end, just right.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Apricots, Apple and Serrano Ham

Out of all the dishes, this was the least interesting.  It was all nicely prepared, but wasn't as exciting as many of the other things we ate. 

Veal Cheeks with Morels and Olive Oil Potato Puree
Yum!  Even in my mostly-vegetarian state, those veal cheeks hit the spot!  They were perfectly cooked (I'm guessing sous-vide), and over the super silky potato puree they were sublime.  A handful of baby morels topped off the dish in a lovely manner.

Mussel Fritters
Though a little heavy, these were awesome...  The mussels seemed to be minced, then folded into a breadcrumb mixture and deep fried.  After they came out of the fryer, a perfect little mussel shell was stuck into each one as a garnish/handle.  Super cute. 

Rabbit Confit with Apricot Puree
This dish was good, though it could have used a touch of acid.  The rabbit was cooked with a ton of rosemary, which I just loved, and I really enjoyed the combination of the herby-resiny rosemary with the intense sweetness of the apricot.

Papas Arrugas
Something so simple- new potatoes boiled in salt water until wrinkled like prunes, perfectly tender, with a dusting of salt crystals on the outside.  They really were good, especially with the accompanying sauces- a chimichurri type herb puree, and a sauce of smoked paprika and garlic.

And lastly...possibly my favorite dish of the night...

Olive Oil Ice Cream with Grapefruit
Really good, creamy, intensely flavored olive oil ice cream over grapefruit granita that was amazingly devoid of bitterness, on a bed of fresh grapefruit supremes.  Topped with a little bit of honey and honestly, I could have eaten three portions...

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