The best way to enjoy the wacky Spanish vibe of Jaleo is to dive in and hold on.
Like a traditional tapas restaurant, the joy comes from the blizzard of small plates that will appear at your table, each one seemingly more wonderful than the last. Like the nontraditional food of José Andrés, you will be occasionally dazzled, occasionally disappointed, but never bored by what shows up at your table.
However, as much as we admire the work being done in the kitchen here, the frenetic din, non-stop bachelor (and bachelorette) parties, and scattered service often detract from the experience — which explains why we often mosey on down the street to Julian Serrano whenever we want to get our Spanish on (and why this place isn’t ranked higher on our list).
But then….there’s the paella. It is simply the best rendition of this dish anywhere in America. A $1,000,000 paella pit (burning local hardwoods) ensures that whatever classic or avant garde combination they’re cooking up that night will be a life-changing event for even the most intrepid of gastronauts. Max Jacobson calls the version made from ribs of an Iberian pig the “star of [the] menu” and a “smoky, seductive, superstar dish that has no equal anywhere in the United Stated, unless you’re going to the original Jaleo in Washington, D.C.”
And did we mention the whole roasted suckling pig? It’s one of the great, gourmet treats available in all of Vegas — although they only roast one on Sunday nights, and one little piggy only feeds about fifty — so reserve early.
It is a testament to the genius of Andrés that he’s able to construct a menu that moves easily from pristine raw ingredients (fried organic egg with caviar) to the classics (see above), to the deceptively simple (datiles con tocino—fried dates wrapped in bacon) to the baffling (liquid olives ‘Ferrán Adria’) to the complex (fresh sea urchin with diced peppers, tomatoes, and pomegranate air), while keeping diners blissfully off balance and entertained the entire time. It doesn’t hurt either that his sangrias and cocktails are some of the best around, too.
Finally, there’s a small room in the back here called “e” for fans of four-hours of forced fun featuring fountains of finely-focused finicky (as in: tweezer) food. The whole experience will set you back a few Benjamins… if that’s your fancy.
Favorite Dishes: Jamon Iberico, Paella de Chuleta Ibericas; Patatas Arrugas; Croquetas; Fried Organic Egg With Caviar; Sangria; All Paellas; Sea Urchin With Pomegranate Air.