Jaleo is the casual tapas restaurant of Jose Andre, a Spanish American chef who has a small empire of restaurants across the US, Minibar in Washington D.C. being the flagship. Jaleo is located on the third floor of the sprawling Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas. The same chef has a much smaller (eight seat) and more upmarket restaurant called "e by Jose Andre" in the same hotel, but it was closed when I happened to be in the city. Having trained at El Bulli, there is apparently a molecular gastronomy tinge to his cooking, but this is heavily toned down at Jaleo for the broader audience of conventioneers and tourists that they get here. Judging by the noodle bar in the same hotel: "Chinese food by Jose Andre", it would seem that his personal brand is being stretched a little thin.
The Jaleo dining room is vast, seating 294 diners at any one time. There is a large pit where several pots of paella are being made, different versions being made in rotation. This being Las Vegas, when a fresh batch of paella is ready the chefs shout out "paella" to the dining room. Perhaps this is a local tradition in Nevada, as it certainly doesn't happen in Spain. The seating is fairly basic and the room decor screams out "hotel restaurant", at least to me.
The menu is extensive, notionally in tapas style, though the portions are quite large, so the waiter advised two, or at most three, dishes per person. The wine list arrives on an iPad and was quite extensive in its coverage of Spain. Example labels were Tres Picos 2011 at $50 for a wine that you can find in a local liquor store for $21, Finca Villacreces 2009 at $88 for a bottle that retails at $34, and Mas La Plana 2008 at $150 compared to a shop price of $53. There were even prestige wines like Vega Sicilia Unico 1976 at an indefensible $2,250 for a bottle that retails at $605.
Dry-cured chorizo ($12) made from Iberico pork had quite good flavour, though served with some hard and tasteless miniature bread rolls (12/20). Much better was tortilla ($12), the classic Spanish omelette made with potatoes and onion. This version had excellent consistency, even a little reminiscent of the version at Nestor in San Sebastien, a place where this dish is the specialty (14/20). The speciality here is notionally paella, yet here the version with Iberico pork ribs (a chunky $36) had decent rice but the pork ribs had little meat and were a touch chewy in texture. Their flavour was fine but the dish was also distinctly over-salted, even to my taste (11/20). Coffee was fine, as well it might be at $6 for a small cup with no petit fours.
Service was polite but a little pushy. The menu is long and the wine list longer, yet I was asked several times in quick succession whether I was ready to order, despite explaining that I needed time to read the menu the first time that the inquiry was made. I was also unimpressed that on the next table croquettas were served in a shoe, an actual black shoe. This must be the single most stupid serving idea that I have ever seen, and I have seen plenty. At least with Dover sole it might at least have been mildly amusing for about a microsecond. Quite what possessed them to do this eludes me.
The bill came to $123 per person (£78), with three glasses of wine and no dessert. This slightly understates what a typical cost per head is likely to be since I skipped dessert, which feels to me like an awful lot of money given the general standard of food that arrived. The food here is tolerable (and the tortilla was actually good) but the value for money factor here is a big problem. Then there was the shoe incident, and no-one can excuse that. It is an idea that should be booted out even if they are catering to well-heeled tourists.