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A Taste of Revelry

Jaleo doesn’t miss a beat with its tasty tapas and festive atmosphere.

The first Jaleo opened its doors in Washington, D.C., in 1993. Since then the restaurant has expanded the brand into Maryland, Virginia and Nevada, and now it’s made its way to Central Florida with the opening of its fifth location at Disney Springs this past March.

Jaleo, which is a Spanish word for revelry, is the product of the venerable chef José Andrés, who is well-known in the culinary world for his Spanish food and his philanthropy.

My friend and I were seated at one of the booths on the first floor of the restaurant and our server was quick to bring us menus and fill our water glasses. We started by ordering two cocktails, the Table Talk ($16) and the Salt Air Margarita ($14).

I ordered the Table Talk because the menu said it was made with lavender but I couldn’t taste the floral herb in my drink. However, it was still a pleasing cocktail to sip on throughout our meal. It’s made with Patxarán (a sloe-flavored liqueur of Spanish origin), dry vermouth, rye whiskey, aquavit and lavender.

The Salt Air Margarita was quite a sight, served in a martini glass with a layer of foam on top. The foam tasted exactly like being at the beach and getting the ocean in your mouth—and I mean that in a good way. According to our server, this was Andrés’ intent, a cocktail that conjures up beach memories like his. After the salt hits you, the sweetness of the Milagro Blanco tequila, Combier L’Original triple sec and lime washes it all away.

Being a Spanish restaurant, tapas make up much of the menu. We decided to share three as our first course: the Pan de cristal con tomate ($12), the Dátiles con tocino ‘como hace todo el mundo’ ($11) and the Gambas a la Zahara ($28).

The Pan de cristal con tomate was simple: toasted bread smeared with cooked tomato. But it was crusty and salty and satisfying. The fried dates with bacon came with an apple-mustard sauce. They were soft and sweet on the inside and surrounded by a crisp exterior.

The gambas, or shrimp in English, were the last to hit our table. The presentation was beautiful. Served in a Dutch oven with breadsticks on the side, the heads-on shrimp were given to us sizzling in garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Our server informed us that this was how Andrés likes to do shrimp in the summer.

I couldn’t have loved this dish more. The shrimp were cooked just right and not at all rubbery; they were easy to eat; and the garlicky olive oil sauce gave everything a warm, piquant flavor.

For our shared entrée, my friend and I settled on one of the two paellas available that night, the Paella Valenciana ($28), which has chicken, rabbit, lima beans, green beans and saffron in a bomba rice. There are different paellas available each night but if there is a specific one you’d like, the restaurant asks that you call 24 hours in advance.

We did not have to wait long for our dish to arrive and after a few bites, I was sold. Another perfectly executed dish. The rice was soft and flavorful, the green beans added much-needed acidity and the meat, which was still in whole pieces, gave the dish some weight.

At this point, we ordered two more drinks, a cocktail called Token ($14) and a glass of the José Selección Ontañon ($13).

The Token was served on the rocks and made of cachaça (a distilled spirit similar to rum), Mexican Coca-Cola, lime, Angostura bitters and nutmeg. It was like the classic rum-and-coke but one that was given a new dimension with the addition of the nutmeg and bitters.

The wine was a tempranillo, a fitting choice since tempranillo grapes are primarily from Spain. It was fruity, with mild spice and soft tannins. The wine menu at Jaleo is quite extensive but it is presented with a key to help guide you to the right vino, which I found to be very helpful as large wine menus can be overwhelming to sort through.

For dessert, we chose the Cítricos con helado de aceite de oliva ($10), a plain ice cream drizzled with olive oil set atop grapefruit shaved ice. The mix of textures was a success with the crunchy ice breaking up the mouth-coating feel of ice cream. And the tart grapefruit against the sweet cream and peppery olive oil allowed this dish to escape the over-sweetness pitfall many desserts fall into.

Overall, Jaleo deserves all the hype it’s received. Each detail of our meal from the presentation to the flavors to the chosen ingredients all felt carefully considered and thoughtfully put together. Next time you’re at Disney Springs, I’d recommend stopping in with friends to share in the many tapas and engage in a little revelry.

Jaleo | 1482 Buena Vista Drive
Disney Springs | 321-348-3211 |