- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2002

If desserts are a priority when picking a lunch place, get acquiented with Jaleo.
This Spanish restaurant in downtown has become popular in recent years for after-work drinks. It is well known for its tasty and equally strong sangria and cappuccino drinks. But the evening crowd is missing much if they don't tap into the food menu, which offers a delicious array of tapas and desserts.
For those not accustomed to eating tapas-style, Jaleo's menu can be a bit daunting. There is a lot to choose from, including hot and cold dishes, dairy and meat, fish and vegetables, fruits and grains.
The choice is made that much more difficult if one has glanced at the dessert menu. The sweets are heavenly, so to lunch at Jaleo and not order one is a crime.
Chocolate and almond mousse, ice cream and compotes with dried fruit are good lunchtime desserts. But who wants those when one can feast on the best flan in town, or a yummy fruitier-version of creme brulee?
The flan, a classical Spanish custard dessert, is much creamier than typically found in other restaurants. It's also firmer and served with fresh strawberries and a decilious cracker.
The crema Catalana a la moderna is whipped cream flavored in vanilla, light cinnamon and orange into a dessert made for royalty. It's served in a tall cup, covered with a thin crust of brown and granulated sugar, like creme brulee. The dish is light and melts in your mouth. The aroma tantalizes the senses and makes your stomach rumble even after eating a full lunch.
Among the traditional Spanish lunch tapas offered are Espinacas a la Catalan (spinach sauteed with pine nuts, raisins and apples) and pulp a la Gallega 'Maestro Alfonso' (octopus with paprika and virgin olive oil). Simpler tastes include the classical Spanish potato and onion omelette, also known as a Spanish tortilla, bread with a variety of cheeses, and grilled mushrooms or asparagus.
The dishes are small enough to satisfy both the hungry lunch-goer (who can order two or three dishes for under $15) or the not-so-hungry client who can simply order one selection.
Post-prandial delights include an array of delicious coffees, from cappucciono and espresso to numerous coffee drinks flavored with liquor or fruit.
Jaleo is a popular lunchtime restaurant, though perhaps not the best place to gather for business. The tables are too small to hold much more than the meal, which winds up being spread around on a series of small plates.
But if no paperwork is not required and the meeting is mostly for talk, Jaleo is a good choice. The atmosphere is laid-back and Spanish music played in the background is low enough to allow you to carry on a sensitive conversation.
The service is good. The staff is prompt and courteous and so attentive that we never had to wait long for needs to be met.
Floor-to-ceiling windows wrap around Jaleo's street frontage, brightening the restaurant even on a cloudy day. Contributing to Jaleo's open and airy feeling is the floor plan. Instead of interior walls, there are a couple of heavy, square structural pillars adorned with brightly colored, Spanish-style ceramic plates.
Beige and a variety of greens seem to be the overriding colors, complementing the comfortable, earthy feel of the restaurant.
Jaleo also has a bar, which is stylized, lending the restaurant a modern feel. Be sure to order the sangria it's excellent.



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