Nestled in Arlington, Virginia is a tapas establishment known as Jaleo. I found myself in the area for NovaOpen 2018, a miniature wargaming convention that my husband and I had been looking forward to for the whole year. While we enjoyed our shared hobby, I made sure we had some time to check out some of the high end establishments in the city. Jaleo was not a planned stop, but one we found during an Uber drive to the nearest Shake Shack with some friends that came down to meet us.
It was a blur in the driver’s side window when we first saw it, noticed by my notorious baking waifu Amanda. We kept note of it even as the pair of us suffered through sinus induced car sickness. When dinner time came, and we wanted somewhere within walking distance of our hotel, Jaleo popped into the conversation. It was decided. I would try a tapas meal for the first time.
We stayed in the Courtyard by Marriot in Arlington, and the building for Jaleo was maybe three long city blocks away. The sun had gone down, and the swampy humidity of the DC area had mostly let go of the streets. We walked in, slightly under dressed in our jeans and leggings, and we were seated despite not having a reservation. We were all excited, even my husband.
The interior was warm and welcoming. The deep red colors we tend to associate with Spanish traditions colored the room and made it comforting, even with the loud hum of other diners swirling in the room. Our seats were at the center of the room, but despite this, it was not too loud for us to have a conversation over our meal.
To tell you about every single element of our dinner at Jaleo would simply be too much, but before we go on, I can tell you that each item that I ate made me happy. Pictures of everything we ordered will be in the slideshow at the top of this article.
During our trip, I noticed that these slightly higher end restaurants do something new to me-- they serve carafes or jugs of cocktails to the table as well as single servings. Jaleo had a lovely red sangria which spoke to three quarters of the table, so we went for that and saved a few dollars. This was the only time we were able to take advantage of this lovely way of serving drinks, but my god, that sangria was a wonderful starter to a wonderful meal.
We began with a simple loaf of bread and a few tablespoons of butter for us to share. We each had a slice and conversed over the nice crust. Then came the first few selections. Together, the four of us marveled over the trout roe and salmon tartar cone that my buddy Josh ordered. It wasn’t a sharable dish, but it was something to look at. We weren’t expecting it to be the size it was. Just look at that little guy!
What most of us were excited for came next, a nice little plate of iberico ham and breadsticks. In this very food concious world, we all hear about how amazing iberico ham is. We’re taught by Food Network that this is a prized commodity in the food world, worth both dying for and killing for. There was some doubt, but from the first moment I wrapped a thin piece of that ham around a breadstick, I began to understand.
Iberico ham is a little salty, lined with fine rows of fat to break it up. The taste of it lingers on your tongue and lips, waiting for your sangria to come and clean it away. It was a tremendous pleasure to try something new in a new environment. I went on to the next dish looking forward to the other iberico ham item we decided to order.
Tapas is such an interesting format for dinner. They managed to bring the dishes out as we finished a few, and we never had a problem finishing what they brought. Truly sharing a meal with good friends like this absolutely colored my experience at Jaleo. If you’re in the area and looking for a new experience, pop on into Jaleo for delicious food and drink.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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