REVIEW: Jaleo Reigns Supreme as the New Crown Jewel of Spanish Cuisine at Disney Springs
Somewhere in between tapas and dessert, several diners at this reviewer’s table started to ponder – had there been a truly bad dish? Nothing could really come to mind. Sure, some were more enjoyed than others, but bad? Not really. This lead to the real question – was Jaleo by José Andrés truly killing it in their soft open? Could this place change the game for eating on the West Side of Disney Springs?
Could Jaleo be the best restaurant at Disney Springs?
With eight diners covering 37 different food and drink offerings, WDWNT took a hard look at Jaleo hoping to answer that question.
Aesthetics & Service
Jaleo has a chill vibrancy to it. Though bold in its colors, it’s all a bit reminiscent of the last embers of a fire – toned down, but ready to wind back up. It’s as formal in design as it is casual in tone and the mix feels both modern and charming.
As this was the soft open, much of the staff was still figuring things out. If there was any issue, the waitstaff was almost overattentive. Every time on of our diners left the table, someone would swoop in and refold their napkin. When the last drop of water was out of a glass, a refill happened at lighting speed. They were so quick, we decided to time it – 15 seconds from empty to full. Now that’s service, but it also doesn’t leave much space for breathing room. We’re sure these are just first day jitters and soon the place will find its pace.
Cuvée Jose, Raventós Blanc 2016 – $70 by the bottle
An exclusive wine Jaleo, this offered a mature sparkling body and was loved by some in the party who don’t even enjoy white wine. Definitely worth a sip.
Sangeria de Lujo – $12 by the glass
A fruity sparkling punch, this was refreshing and a bit outside what you might normally think of as a normal glass of sangria.
Ultimate Gin & Tonic – $16
Hendrick’s gin, Fever Tree Indian Tonic, lemon verbena, juniper, lemon, and lime. This was truly amazing. Possibly the best G&T ever had by the reviewer.
Pomada – $14
Xoriguer gin, bergamot, lemonade, mint, soda. This had a mojito vibe as the bergamot boosted the excellent citrus flavors.
La Peineta – $12
Oloroso sherry, lemon, saffron, lemon verbena, soda. Super sour in a very distinct way, this one gained a varied set of reactions. You might love it or hate it, but you can’t deny that it’s unique. Over time, its flavors grew on the drinker.
Castaway Old Cuban – $15
Pineapple rum, lime, sherry vinegar, Cava, mint. This had a nice, low-level sour tang to it. Only real downside is the name and ingredients made us assume it would have a more robust tropical flavor. Good, but don’t confuse this with a tiki drink.
Cropping Rope – $14
Crop Cucumber vodka, Lillet Blanc, Green Chartreuse, lime, soda. Very crisp and smooth. Delightfully cool thanks to the lime and cucumber vodka.
Token – $14
Cachaça, Mexican Coca-Cola, lime, Angostura bitters, nutmeg. A nice twist on a rum and coke. The Mexican Coca-Cola and bitters really set it apart from the more conventional version.
Salt Air Margarita – $14
Milagro Blanco tequila, Combier L’Original, lime, salt air. Instead of a salted rim, it’s like this margarita has saltwater foam… and it’s unbelievable. This is a super unique take on the margarita, and it was really enjoyed by the tequila lovers at the table. As we came to find out, most items from Jaleo have an incredible backstory to them, and this was no exception:
Jose Andres went swimming somewhere in his native Spain and he got some foam in his mouth, which he figured would translate into an amazing cocktail––and it did!
Patxarán, dry vermouth, rye whiskey, aquavit, lavender. As one might expect, the lavender stuck out in this one. A good combination with the whiskey.
Catamarán – $15
Barcelo Imperial rum, Fever Tree Indian tonic, lime, Angostura bitters. Oddly, a bit like a gin and tonic. Completely fine, but, with several actual gin and tonic variations on the menu, they’re the better choice.
Kas Limon – $6
This nonalcoholic soda really hit the mark with strong lemon notes. Sort of a unique lemonade.
Bikini de Jamon con Queso Manchego – $18
A pressed sandwich of Spanish ham and Manchego cheese. This was so full of buttery goodness. The Manchego cheese was a favorite in any dish it came up in.
Croquetas de Pollo – $12.50
Traditional chicken fritters. These creamy, delicious little morsels were served on this bizarre little fake pillow, but that didn’t stop them from being a favorite of the table. This was another item with a fascinating backstory:
At other Jaleo locations, Jose Andres he serves these croquetas in a shoe. Why? When he was a child, he put his shoes on the table once and his grandmother yelled at him for it, so he thought it would be fun to break the rules by offering a creative serving vessel for these classic snacks. Disney wanted to give it its own creative spin, so they figured they’d place these on Cinderella’s glass shoe pillow!
Carne Asada con Piquillos – $15
Grilled flat iron steak with confit piquillo peppers. Very tender and well-seasoned, make sure to eat these along with the roasted pepper.
Pollo a la Brasa – $13
Grilled chicken served with garlic sauce. Very juicy, and the sweet sauce mixed well with the roasted garlic. Highly recommended.
Patatas Bravas – $10
Fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and aioli. Potatoes mixed in that sauce made for killer flavor and one of the top favorites of the whole evening.
Gambas al ajillo – $18
Tapa of shrimp sautéed with garlic. Really good with a nice garlic buttery flavor, but more bread was needed to soak in the garlic sauce. One stick for four people didn’t really cut it, and these types of dishes you want to share.
Jamón Serrano – $14
24-month cured Serrano ham. If you’re an avid meat lover, this is probably a must. For the table, it was good, but the least favorite item. The price is hard to swallow if you don’t fully know how to appreciate the craftsmanship of the curing process.
5 Queso Board – $28 (your choice of cheeses)
Agreed that this is one of the best cheese boards at Disney and the pairings are unique and flavorful. The goat cheese was a favorite, but I really liked the cheese served with the apple and the cheese with the cookie was delicious.
Rey Silo Blanco – intensely-flavored cow’s milk cheese paired with honey, rosemary, almond shortbread and PX reduction
Rey Silo Rojo – a bold and spicy raw cow’s milk cheese with pimentón, paired with almonds and bitter orange jam
Caña de cabra – a soft, semi-sweet goat’s milk cheese paired with rosemary cracker and fig jam.
Queso Manchego – traditional raw Manchego cheese paired with muscatel compressed apples
La Peral – intensely flavored blue cheese of cow and cheep milk paired with raisins and Red Ximénez compressed pears.
Dátiles con tocino ‘Como hace todo el mundo’ – $11
This menu item translates to: Bacon-wrapped dates… “just like everyone else does them!” Except these are some of the best bacon-wrapped dates we’ve ever tried. Fried bacon-wrapped dates served with an apple-mustard sauce. You might remember something similar being offered ages ago at Jock Lindsey’s at Springs. These are a superior take. The apple mustard sauce was delicious and the dates are good enough to eat even on their own if you choose. (But really, the sauce is what takes these over the top.)
Pan de cristal con tomate – $12
Toasted slices of crispy bread brushed with fresh tomato. This was okay, but it got soggy fast, and lost some of its texture.
Chistorra envuelta en patata frita – $10
Slightly spicy chorizo wrapped in crispy potato served with membrillo aioli. These were great, but really needed the sauce to make it. The chorizo wouldn’t stand as well on its own. (That being said, when paired with the sauce, we’d go as far as saying that this is one of the best dishes in all of Walt Disney World.)
Ensalada de remolacha con citricos – $13
A salad of red beets, orange, grapefruit, La Peral blue cheese and pistachios with sherry dressing. You don’t think of beet salad as knocking it out fo the park, but this was surprisingly good. The waiter recommended combining everything together in a bite and that really made it all click.
Paellas, being one of Spain’s traditional dishes, plays a big role at Jaleo. That being said, they try to make the lengthy wait to receive these worth your while, and when you order any paella dish, waiters will bang a drum and yell “Paella!” It makes for a really fun experience, and all of the paellas here are truly out-of-this-world good.
Arroz de verduras y setas de temporada -$25
A traditional paella with vegetables and mushrooms. Though we were hesitant to try a meatless paella, it was well worth it. For the price, one might hope for a slightly larger portion, especially with the 45 minute wait it can take to prepare, but it was still excellent.
Paella Valenciana – $28
Chicken, rabbit, lima beans, green beans, and saffron. The rabbit was extra flavorful. Well worth your time, but be mindful of the possibility of a little bone mixed in.
Flan al estriol traditional de mama Marisa con espuma de cream catalana – $10
A classic Spanish custard with espuma, or foam of Catalan cream and orange. An amazing dessert with all great elements. The foam was the favorite for most everyone. We were told it was Jose Andres’ mother’s recipe.
Cítricos con helado de aceite de oliva – $10
Olive oil ice cream with grapefruit. A very unique idea that was easily welcomed by our tastebuds. Interestingly, the aftertaste does have a bit of saltiness to it. Someone in our party didn’t like grapefruit, but it was still thoroughly enjoyed by them.
Pan con chocolate – $10
Chocolate custard with caramelized bread, olive oil and brioche ice cream. A not overly rich combination of chocolate and vanilla the paired really well with the bread. The caramelization brought a unique texture.
Quesada Asturiana– $14
Basque-style cheesecake made with goat cheese with seasonal sorbet. The mix of the raspberry sorbet with the cheesecake left a wonderfully creamy aftertaste.
So, to the big question – could “Jaleo” be the new best restaurant at Disney Springs? Very possibly. It sets a high standard and was, in our estimation perhaps the smoothest restaurant opening at Disney Springs in memory. There is something for everyone on this menu and, though some might desire larger portions of some dishes, small plates is the nature of tapas. This is a new favorite for some in our reviewing group and we think it might become your favorite too.