Saturday, November 16, 2013

Reflections upon Reconnecting with an Old Lover

What happens when you meet someone you had strong feelings for after a long absence? It can be a bit jarring, but also a bit exciting. You remember with fondness the qualities that originally attracted you to her and marvel in the ways in which she has changed and grown since your last encounter. 

These were my feelings when visiting Jaleo in Bethesda for its grand (re)opening. At first, there were the feelings of anticipation. Is she still beautiful? Is she still delicious? Does she still exhibit that warm hospitality that makes me feel special? Yes, yes and yes! Whew!

Gone are the flamenco stylings that signaled the wilder side of her youth. Her makeover, however, is impressive. At once warm, inviting, cozy, playful, mature, and engaging, the Juli Capella-designed space evokes a modern Spanish bistro and reveals the culture and traditions of José Andres’ native Spain. Warm, red walls with black and white menu items dominate the vertical planes along with strategically designed metal beaded curtains. The space is grand and intimate at the same time. In addition to tables and chairs in the dining room and stools in the bar, there are several other seating options, including long banquettes along the perimeter of the dining room and fun glass-topped Foosball tables for 6 or 8 with black leather benches and cheekily dressed players (including Spider Man, a nun, a bride and groom and many others). 

For its grand (re)opening party, Jaleo served its guests a selection of delights, including three riffs on paella served in cast iron skillets as large as table tops. Hand-sliced jamon iberico, always delicious, was soon followed by tender chicken croquettes, endive boats with mandarin orange and goat cheese, bocadillos with paper-thin chorizo and tomatoes, tender sliders and more. And what José Andres dining experience would be complete without a little molecular gastronomy? In this case, liquefied olives! Barely retaining the solidity of a thin egg yolk, these olives were (literally) spoon-fed to us, bursting with green olive goodness. Note to self: find out if available in martinis.
And speaking of drinks, charming servers cut through the crowds with blood red sangrias with strawberries and basil, a sparkling Spanish rosé, and a gin and tonic featuring José’s homemade gin and fresh juniper berries.   
 All in all, it was great to reconnect. And I think she wants to see me again.
Jaleo on Urbanspoon

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