Jaleo

Once, chef José Andrés insisted he would never open a restaurant here. Suddenly, he has three: China Poblano, E Bar and this one, his flagship. Jaleo, which means “revelry” in Spanish, is as versatile a restaurant as there is in this city.

It’s possible to eat quickly, snacking on small plates (tapas), but you can also spend hours here nibbling on course after course, crowned by a smoky paella from the olive-wood fire pit in the rear of the dining room.

The décor is colorful, featuring multicolored banquettes that Andrés chose himself, avant-garde murals designed by Spanish artists and, just outside in the common area, foosball tables that double as dining tables.

Most of the dozens of dishes are inspired by Spanish cuisines. The conserved tuna and potato salad is to die for. Another more exotic dish is butifarra casera, the famous Catalan pork sausage done in a stew with mushrooms and pearl onions. Try patatas arrugadas, tiny alabaster-color potatoes paired with a duo of exotic sauces from the Canary Islands, or embutidas, various types of ham and sausage imported from Spain. Pata negra, from black-footed Spanish pigs that subsist on acorns, is the world’s best ham. At almost $40 for a small serving, it had better be.

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Combining ingredients that are both popular and typical of Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine, Paymon’s general manager Jeff Ecker created a drink that pairs well with the tradition of smoking hookah. With delicate flavors such as mango, coconut, orange and cherry, Ecker notes that it appeals to the female set as well. The cocktail was also featured in 2002 on Rachael Ray’s show, $40 a Day. It has remained on the menu ever since, a testament to the enduring success of this match made in the Mediterranean.

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