Thursday evening at The Cosmopolitan and the place was pumping. Restaurants were full and we made sure to arrive early for our 7:00 p.m. reservation. Jaleo is an upscale tapas restaurant from famed Asturian-born, Barcelona-raised chef, Jose Andres. Upon entering the bright, red and black-themed, we walk through the front area of counter-style tables and several seats at the bar before being led towards the back area where many tables of mostly large groups are already tucking in to dinner. The noise level is high and the place is buzzing with noise as we are seated close to wall with the mounted bull’s head wearing a wrestler-type face mask.
Red cardboard-backed menus are distributed along with the wine list and still water is ordered. The front part of the extensive menu is covered in words – tortila, chistorra, jamon iberico, paella – different tapas on the menu. After going through each section (artfully yet clearly arranged by type to make it easier to choose), A and I pick out a few of our favorites from the different interesting items on offer. Traditionally, tapas are tiny one-bite portions of hot or cold food served with a drink, usually a beer or a glass of wine. Here, the portions are not really for one but enough to share so the best way is to order a whole load of plates, place them in the middle of the table for everyone to dig into because, with tapas, no one wants to eat a whole plate of the same thing.
From the Buen Provecho, we had the Pan con tomate ($5 plain), crusty bread rubbed with tomato topped with Jamon Serrano ($12 with the ham) – a classic and something we missed from our days in Marbella. From Latas y Mas (literally translates to cans and others is a typical Spanish tapa which is often high-quality canned goods, popped open and served on the counter) aceitunas rellenas y aceitunas “Ferran Adria” along with a 2007 Artadi Vinas de Gain ($79) – a tempranillo from Rioja. The jamon was buttery and just slightly salty, a perfect complement to the fresh tomato rubbed onto the crisp bread. The aceitunas were drizzled with orange zest, a combination of large green olives stuffed with either anchovies or piquillo peppers and softer oblong “liquid olives” that burst in the mouth with the flavor of grassy, green olive oil. (Remember to use the spoon provided to pop them carefully into the mouth or you might find yourself with a wardrobe malfunction.)
We skipped Embutidos (cured meats and cold cuts), Quesos (cheeses), Sopas (soups) and Jose’s way (modern takes on tapas) sections and continued on with our traditional tapas for the night. Next up were several items from Frituras (deep-fried stuff),cheekily sub-titled “frying is overrated….yeah, right!” – Croquetas de jamon Iberico ($10), potato croquettes stuffed with tiny chunks of jamon Iberico from black-footed, acorn-fed pigs, Berenjenas con miel de caña al estilo Malagueño ($8) crisp chunks of breaded aubergines drizzled with syrupy molasses, Chistorra envuelta en patata frita ($8) spicy sausages from the Northern part of Spain rolled in a thin potato chip. They sure know how to deep-fry at Jaleo – all three were hot and crunchy and none of them were dripping in oil.
Then the rest of the share plates kept on coming. Two dishes from Pescados y Mariscos – first, the tortilla de erizos ($12) a seafood version of the classic runny potato omelet topped with salty sea urchin chunks, followed by Rape a la Donostiarra ($10) another northern Spanish preparation for monk fish which is usually char-grilled whole fish over which is poured a mixture of piping hot olive oil, a dash of sherry vinegar, fried garlic chips and a dried red chili pepper. Jaleo’s version used thin carpaccio-like slices of monk fish making the dish more delicate than the original.
The next four dishes were more substantial and were actually smaller versions of main courses rather than actual tapas. From the Carnes section – Carne Asada con piquillos Julian de Lodosa ($14), grilled hanger steak with Piquillo pepper confit, which was served exactly as is, and Papadas de Kurobuta y vieiras Mar y Muntanya ($14), Kurobuta pork jowls (a.k.a. cheeks) with scallops over olive oil potato puree, a modern take on the Catalan version of surf n turf.
Finally from the Paellas (we had to have one after seeing the smoking pit in front of the open kitchen which had three large paelleras, paella pans, simmering away), we chose the special that evening which was not listed on the menu, the seafood paella (don’t remember the price of this one) – saffron-flavored rice with a lobster tail, clams and mussels with some alioli (the way it’s supposed to be served and not with french fries like they did over lunch at Comme Ca).
We decided to order two more plates at the end of our meal: a repeat of the pan con tomate con jamon serrano (it was so good, everyone wanted seconds) and from the Bocadillos (sandwiches), the hamburguesa de Iberico
– flauta (sort of like a mini-baguette) bread brushed with olive oil and fresh tomato, filled with grilled Iberico pork burger
– the meat from the acorn-fed, black-hoofed pig, ground and seared on a charcoal grill, just like a burger except way juicier and tastier than beef. We then shared two desserts ($9 each)
– tarta de manzana al azafran, apple tart with a saffron and apple sorbet,
and pastel de chocolate y avellanas, chocolate hazelnut cake with praline ice cream and salted caramel sauce
along with some excellent illy coffees served in glasses (just like in Spain). Our whole dinner for four – a dozen tapas, a bottle of wine, two desserts and coffees came up to $258 without tip. (Definitely reasonable for a hotel on the strip.)
The translation of jaleo (pronounced HA-LE-O) is an uproar, commotion or revelry which best describes what you will feel about Jose Andres’ new Vegas outpost once you try it. The food is authentic, the place casual, the decor modern and it’s pretty noisy. I’m already looking forward our my next Vegas trip so I can work my way through Jaleo’s whole menu.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Tel: +1 (702) 698 7950
Open daily for lunch and dinner.