January 2006: Jaleo

Theatergoers, students, backpacking tourists, and couples gather around carafes of sangria and plates of chorizo at José Andrés's loud and lively Penn Quarter tapas place--still the best, most consistent of his three Jaleo locations and the style-setter f

By: Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Cynthia Hacinli

2006 100 VERY BEST RESTAURANTS

THE SCENE. Theatergoers, students, backpacking tourists, and couples gather around carafes of sangria and plates of chorizo at José Andrés's loud and lively Penn Quarter tapas place--still the best, most consistent of his three Jaleo locations and the style-setter for small plates in the city.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. You'll taste the small-town cooking Andrés grew up on and see flashes of the avant-garde style he's since embraced. The small plates lend themselves to fun experimentation, and there's something for nearly every appetite--from brightly flavored gazpacho to rich tripe stew.

WHAT YOU WON'T. Overcrowding can curb Spaniard-style lingering.

BEST DISHES. A tin can of mussels marinated in olive oil, orange peel, and paprika; potatoes on toothpicks with Cabrales cheese; Cadiz-style fried shark; tomato bread with manchego cheese; croquetas; superb date-and-bacon fritters; goat-cheese-stuffed pimientos; a peppy gazpacho; Basque cake.