Bienvenido to Jaleo by Chef José Andrés!
Newly open in Disney Springs, this is the fifth Jaleo location in the U.S. (the restaurant has its origins in Washington, D.C. where it opened in 1993). So Jaleo already comes accompanied with a well-earned reputation for showcasing the authentic Spanish cuisine of Chef Andrés through a variety of shared plates along with paellas, sangria, Spanish cheeses and wines and much more.
But Chef Andrés is not only known for his cooking. Among other and numerous accolades and awards, he has been named both “Outstanding Chef” and “Humanitarian of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation and received the 2015 National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Chef Andrés was also nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for disaster relief work through World Central Kitchen, the non-profit organization he founded in 2010.
We have been looking forward to the opening of Jaleo in Disney Springs for some time now, and we are so excited to bring you along for our first visit!
The Disney Springs location presents the biggest Jaleo yet.
Aside from the sheer size of the multi-level restaurant, the other striking aspect are the red, orange, and gold “citrus-inspired hues” you see decorating the space upon setting foot inside.
Even with the vivid color scheme, the space still feels bright and open with light colored wood tabletops and clean lines. But there are also some decorative elements that are just plain fun surrounding the mixed booth and chair seating.
I have read the word “vibrant” used to describe Jaleo, and it certainly applies!
The setting manages to be both upscale and whimsical at the same time. I mean, who would NOT want to sit at the Foosball Table?!
Other unique features include onstage kitchens.
Most notable is the huge wood fire paella pit for preparing the authentic paellas!
They will prepare two paellas every night here — one vegetarian and one meat. The choices will rotate, but just a note that the restaurant has been best known for the classic Valencia Paella.
A special Opening Night cutting board was even on display at the paella pit for the big day!
Bar seating is also available for guests in a few areas.
The upstairs space features, among other things, the Jaleo Academy.
This space has eleven seats and in the future may be booked for demonstrations, wine or sherry pairings and the like!
And there is a fairly large area of outdoor patio seating as well.
And finally, a selection of merchandise is also available to remember your visit. Here is just a sampling…
And you can even pick up “We Fed An Island,” written by the Chef himself.
We’re only getting started, my friends! Let’s keep going…
Are you ready for this? Settle in and get comfy…
… because the menu for Jaleo’s traditional and contemporary Spanish cuisine is seriously huge! We do want to note: the menu you see below is what guests will receive when the restaurant settles into its groove in about one to two weeks. (For opening night, the menu was somewhat abbreviated.)
From tapas galore to cheese and meat plates to salads to paellas and more, there’s so much here to enjoy picking and choosing and sharing among family and friends. Even for the kids…
But, of course, we can’t forget drinks to start!
The Salt Air Margarita is MiLagro Blanco tequila and Combier L’Original with lime and salt air.
The “salt air” means that it’s topped with a salty foam as opposed to a traditional salt rim. And let me tell you… it’s seriously salty!
Sipped on its own, the foam is too intense, but the drink comes together well when it’s sipped together with the margarita.
The lovely Cuvee Jose sparkling wine is only available at Jaleo in Disney Springs!
It’s a dry wine, and really enjoyable.
Moving onto the food, each item comes out as it is ready. We’re starting here with the Jamon Iberico de Bellota Cortado a Mano which presents a serving of 36 to 48-month cured ham from the free range ibcerco pigs of Spain. It is hand-carved and served tableside by a server who took classes in carving the meat and plating the dish.
Served with small pieces of crunchy bread, this is simply delectable. It’s not overly salty and the fats melts away, unlike a prosciutto.
It’s recommended, by the way, that you pair it with cheeses. And when have you ever known the DFB to go without a cheese plate? For the Quesos, you can choose a selection of three or five cheeses.
Our choice of three included Payoyo (a creamy goat’s milk cheese) with Marcona almonds, Machengo with apples, and Queso Massimo (an Asturian raw cow’s milk cheese “made exclusively for Chef José Andrés and Jaleo”).
The Queso Massimo, in particular, is super soft and creamy, and was the favorite at our table. The Manchego offers a nice nutty taste that pairs well with the apples. The Payoyo was the strongest of the three, yet not overwhelming.
Pan de Cristal con Tomate takes the Spanish crispy bread and brushes it with fresh tomato.
It presents so much flavor for something so simple! You can also mix and match and top with the ham or your cheeses.
The Aceitunas Modernas y Clasicas presents ‘Ferran Adria” liquid olives and gordal olives from Spain stuffed with piquillo pepper and anchovy. Our server recommended it as an especially interesting option.
The olives are prepared with “molecular gastronomy” and you’re advised to pop the whole olive in your mouth, then press it against the roof of your mouth and it will explode! Fans of olives really should put this on their must-try list.
The Croquetas de Pollo are traditional chicken fritters. But the presentation is anything but traditional!
Chef Andres had a special plate made to resemble the pillow which held Cinderella’s glass slipper. Even better, the chicken fritters themselves were one of the best things we ate all night.
The light crust (almost like a hush puppy) surrounds a flavorful center featuring shredded chicken and a creamy béchamel sauce that is cooked for TWO days! The recipe comes by way of the Chef’s mother.
You might hear something unexpected in Jaleo… a cowbell rings when a Paella is ready! (“More cowbell!”)
Ours was the classic Valencia Paella: chicken, rabbit, lima and green beans and the seasonal veggie of artichoke. And it’s fabulous. The rabbit is gamey in that it’s chewier than the chicken, but still not tough. And the entire dish is bursting with flavor from the terrific seasonings, too, with lots of rosemary and saffron.
The Gambas al Ajillo is the “very, very famous tapa” of plump shrimp sautéed with garlic.
It’s served with Flauta bread to dip into the garlic olive oil sauce.
And last — but not least — of our tapas are the highly recommended traditional bacon-wrapped dates, Datiles cob Tocino.
The bacon comes through nice and strong against the sweet dates.
Ok, when I said “last,” you didn’t think we’d forget dessert, did you? We went with two recommendations: the Flan and the Olive Oil Ice Cream.
The Flan is the classic Spanish custard with “espuma” of Cantain cream and oranges. It’s the recipe of Chef Andres’ grandmother.
The whipped cream has hints of cinnamon and citrus, and the flan is so creamy, yet not super heavy after a big dinner.
The Citrocos con helado de scite de oliva is Olive Oil Ice Cream with grapefruit. You definitely need to enjoy grapefruit because the dessert has chilled grapefruit chunks and even grapefruit candy.
The olive oil is both in the ice cream and drizzled on top. It’s not something I typically would have ordered, but it’s very unique and quite good!
And with that we’ve enjoyed our first, but not last, evening at Jaleo!
Our first visit to Jaleo was — quite simply — a wonderful experience. We enjoyed great service in a beautiful setting. And due to the huge variety in the tapas-style dining, and Jaleo’s menu in particular, there’s something sure to satisfy just about every guest from the pickiest to the most adventurous eaters. Better yet, it’s delicious, with every item we tried packed with flavor. Jaleo, as it turns out, was very much worth the wait, and we’re glad it’s in Disney Springs at last!
Some logistics: in its opening phase, Jaleo is open for dinner beginning at 5:00 PM. However, later this month lunch service will start daily as well. Guests participating on the Disney Dining Plan will want to know that Jaleo is a signature location requiring two table service credits. Reservations were not available for this evening, but interested guests may soon call for reservations at (321) 348-3211 or visit OpenTable.com, and reservations will also soon be available through the Disney World website or by calling (407) WDW-DINE.
Will you be dining at Jaleo? Please let us know with a comment!