Cosmopolitan has become one of my favorite resorts to stay in Vegas. When Mario Luna, Owner and Sommelier of Elevage Wine Group, saw that I was in town again, he FB-messaged me to ‘come to Jaleo tonight’. I’ve never met Mario in person and have meant to seek him out during my previous visits but just kept missing him. I made a point to meet him this time and made a dinner reservation. At 6:00pm prompt when we showed up at Jaleo, Mario came to greet us personally. Something about his warm and friendly smile made me feel like I was seeing an old friend.
The restaurant is a lot bigger than I thought. It’s sort of divided into two areas; one side has more of a lounge feel while the other is a little more for sit-down dinning.
Mario is a Certified Level Sommelier from The Court of Master Sommeliers. Naturally he was enthusiastic about introducing us a few special drinks. I told Mario I was not much of a drinker. He said ‘OK, but try this and let me know what you think’. The drink was ‘Gin and Tonic’ José’s favorite cocktail (pictured above left). I took a sip and my eyes lit up! Wow, I REALLY really liked it! Garnished with lime, lemon and mint, it was so refreshing and crisp! I am totally a fan now.
We basically let Mario be our food guide of the night. After he asked Allen and me what we liked and didn’t like, he brought out plate after plate of food. The first plate was Pan de cristal con tomate fresco (Toasted slices of uniquely crispy and ethereal bread brushed with fresh tomato). The bread was really light and crispy but still had enough texture. I don’t know how the tomato was prepared/cooked but it was completely PH balanced, in my own interpretation, not acidic nor sweet. It was just lovely.
Second plate was Gambas al ajillo (The very, very famous tapa of shrimp sautéed with garlic). I savored the sauce and thought the shrimp was a little over-cooked. Nevertheless, we enjoyed it very much. We even asked for extra bread just so we could dip in the sauce. Delicious!
I have to admit. I had a lot of reservation about cured meat because more often than not, it’s overly salty. But the signature item of José Andrés and Jale, the jamón ibérico de bellota, acorn-fed pork cured for 5 years, was complex and intense in flavor but surprising balanced in taste. Jaleo was the first restaurant in the US to offer it.
The Croquetas de pollo (Traditional chicken fritters) were addicting! They were creamy inside and crispy outside. Why where they served in a shoe? I just couldn’t remember, so ask next time when you go there.
‘Do you like Olives?’ Mario asked. ‘Not really because they are usually too salty for me.’ I said. Minutes later, Mario brought over Ferrán Adrià’ (liquid olives). The technique relies on a simple gelling reaction between calcium chloride and sodium alginate. These little delights melt in your mouth.
If you like meat, you won’t want to miss Carne asada con piquillos ‘Julián de Lodosa’* (Grilled skirt steak with piquillo pepper confit). It was tender and flavorful in every bite. I think Allen wished he could have it all by himself.
Lastly the Paella Valenciana ‘Rafael Vidal’ (A true classic of chicken, rabbit and green beans) was amazing, cooked over a large wood-burning grill for a true taste of Spain. By far the best Paella we’ve ever had!
Thank you, Mario, for introducing us to the wonderful cuisine of Jaleo! I’m craving everything as I write this post and can’t wait to visit again in a couple of weeks!
Jaleo By Jose Andres
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109