Jaleo is the new table service restaurant by Chef José Andrés on Disney Springs’ West Side. This Walt Disney World dining review features food photos, thoughts on the quality, our experiences here, value for money, and how this new sit-down eatery compares to other ‘celebrity chef’ alternatives at Disney Springs.
Let’s start with some background about Jaleo. First of all, it’s an established restaurant that’s regarded as one of the highlights of both the Washington, DC and Las Vegas dining scenes. Jaleo is so well-regarded that it’s in the Washington Post food critic’s Hall of Fame.
The main reason we were excited for Jaleo is because of Chef José Andrés, who seems like a genuinely good and fascinating person. Seeing the work he has done with World Central Kitchen (an organization we support–and highly recommend) in the aftermath of natural disasters has been inspiring…
In addition to all of that, Jaleo is just different from the other restaurants at Disney Springs. Well the dining lineup is formidable, there is some degree of “sameness” amongst other venues–whether it be in decor, presentation, atmosphere, or menus. At Disney Springs, there’s nothing else like Jaleo in any of those regards.
It should thus come as no surprise that we’ve been highly anticipating the debut of the Awesome Blossom Transformer Restaurant (as we’ve been calling it). As tapas are best enjoyed with a group, we were joined for this meal by Josh of easyWDW infamy; he has dined at Jaleo like 7 times in between visits to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
We’ll start with the Patatas Bravas: “A Jaleo favorite: fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and alioli.”
These potatoes are boiled and then fried, creating a crispy exterior that gives way to a soft, almost gooey interior. Or perhaps that’s from the slathering of creamy garlic aioli mixed with the tangy and bright tomato sauce.
What appears decidedly simple is deceptively complex with the Patatas Bravas, which are also sure to be a crowd-pleaser. These are our #1 recommendation.
Next, from the same menu section we have the Croquetas de Pollo, or traditional chicken fritters.
At other Jaleo restaurants, Chef Andrés serves croquetas in faux shoes, which I guess is a matter of rebellion over his grandmother telling him to get his shoes off the table. For Walt Disney World, he’s switched up the script, serving the croquetas on what appears to be the pillow for Cinderella’s glass slipper.
To be honest with you, Chef Andrés could serve these in a faux dumpster and I’d dive in to devour them. Here we once again have a crisp exterior providing a bit of crunch and heft to a creamy chicken concoction inside. They’re richly delicious, but not to the point that you won’t want to eat an entire pillow-full yourself. These are our #2 recommendation.
Another item we loved is the Ensaladilla Rusa: the ultimate Spanish tapa: potato salad with imported conserved tuna, carrots, peas, and mayonnaise.
The “problem” here is that we’ve listed three consecutive comfort foods that are rich and creamy (that’s a bit reductive, but it’s nonetheless accurate). While each on their own were phenomenal, I’m not sure this is sound approach unless you have a larger party.
Next, the Arroz de Verduras y Setas de Temporada: traditional paella of seasonal vegetables and mushrooms.
Normally, two of the five paellas are available daily. However, for our Friday lunch, this was the only option due to a combination of religious customs and (presumably) a lack of demand. Paellas can take up to 45 minutes to prepare, so order this earlier in your meal if you’re interested.
It may not be the most photogenic dish, but it’s delicious. The vegetables are hearty and fresh, something that shines through even after the seasoning and preparation. For the full Jaleo “experience,” you really need to order at least one paella for the table.
Continuing to the ‘not recommended’ main courses, we have the Tortilla de Patatas ClÃ¡sica: Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions.
This wasn’t bad, it just did little to impress. Everything else offered an inventive twist, but this was pretty much exactly what the description suggests. A little…flat, if you will.
Vieiras con salsa de piÃ±ones: seared scallops with pine nut sauce, raisins and PX reduction.
These scallops were delicious, but the price is steep and if you have anything other than a party of 3, it’s awkward to share. Based upon the value proposition, we don’t recommend this dish.
Escalivada Catalana: roasted red peppers, eggplant and sweet onions with sherry dressing served with toasted bread.
The one item to avoid from our meal, these had a slimy texture and were overly salty. Getting past that was downright impossible, but if you could, the flavors (would have been) robust, with a heartiness to the eggplant.
For our first dessert, we had the Pan con Chocolate: chocolate custard with caramelized bread, olive oil and brioche ice cream.
A symphony of flavors and textures, punctuated by the pungency of olive oil and the rich chocolate custard. Highly recommended.
Next, the Quesada Asturiana: basque-style cheesecake made with goat cheese and seasonal sorbet.
This was likewise fantastic, with the mild earthiness of goat cheese making for a really interesting twist on a familiar favorite. The price here is a bit steep, but it’s worth a splurge.
Here’s the Salt Air Margarita, which has Milagro Blanco tequila, Combier L’Original, lime, and saltwater foam.
Sarah said this is the best margarita she’s ever had. The foam instead of a salted rim is definitely a unique twist.
In terms of design, Jaleo is a breath of fresh air. Unlike the last 372 Disney Springs projects, this is not done in the repurposed warehouse hipster aesthetic.
Instead, the design is light and airy, with a crisp modern style that feels at once casual and hip. There’s the “occasional” multi-level mural, whimsical flourish, and vibrant light fixtures.
There’s also plenty of red and yellow tile-work, which has the dual effect of evoking Spain’s flag and creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. The design feels fairly low-key and clean, but as you look closer, there’s a lot of detail to appreciate.
Jaleo is not, however, a themed restaurant in the Disney sense of the term. For better or worse, that’s not the direction Walt Disney World has chosen to go with Disney Springs.
While I’m not wild about this, it is understandable; Disney Springs is competing with real world restaurants in the Orlando area, that that plays out in all regards–menu, prices, and ambiance.
One thing to note about lunch at Jaleo is that the atmosphere was notably muted. Whereas at night the restaurant is alive with a palpable sense of energy and exuberance, lunch was quiet and peaceful.
That might make lunch sound appealing, but I’d counter that a large part of Jaleo’s appeal is the conviviality. There’s this festive, familial sensibility to Jaleo, and it feels like a fun gathering–a party with other families amidst the vibrant colors of the multi-level restaurant’s modern design.
Both Morimoto Asia and STK have aimed for a similar type of atmosphere. Arguably, both have missed the mark, at least from the perspective of average Walt Disney World guests. Whereas those restaurants do feel energetic and festive in the evenings, they’re not as inviting.
Jaleo, by contrast, doesn’t strive for any exclusivity, affluence, or poshness. This is a jovial setting where everyone is invited to the party; parents, convention-goers, kids, millennials, the elderly, people from all walks of life, and even Patriots fans. It’s difficult to convey this via words or even photos, but Jaleo is very welcoming; it’s an exuberant party all are able to enjoy.
Moving along to how Jaleo competes with other Disney Springs restaurants, the big ‘issue’ is pricing. Jaleo has received some criticism for being expensive and serving small portions even by tapas standards, something a ThinkFoodGroup rep who was roaming the restaurant as much as admitted. Before tip, the total for all of the above was $141.56, or ~$47 per person.
However, we all left full. Dropping $50 per person at a restaurant of this caliber for a satisfying meal doesn’t seem off the mark to me. Moreover, if we were ordering for value, dropping the scallops would’ve been an easy move (for different reasons, I’d do the same with the Escalivada).
That would’ve brought the price down to $38 per person for an equally filling meal, which isn’t bad at all. (Josh suggested the Carne Asada con Piquillos, which would have rounded out our meal nicely and brought the per person total back up to $43. Still fair.)
In the interest of full disclosure, prior to our meal above, we were invited to the opening night media event for Jaleo. Unlike a movie, theme park, or other static experience, I don’t think it’s scrupulous to review a restaurant based upon such an event, as dishes can be ‘enhanced’ and served in ways normal patrons won’t experience them.
Nevertheless, here are a few noteworthy items from that with brief commentary:
All of the paella we tried was good; I far prefer the chicken, rabbit, and seafood varieties, whereas Sarah favors vegetables. (If I could get mushroom and rabbit paella, I’d be in heaven.)
I forgot to take a photo of it, but the Pan de cristal con tomate, was the one misfire we had that first evening. The bread is fantastic, but the rest of it’s like cold pizza…but with no toppings except the sauce.
Everyone else seems to be raving about this, so perhaps it’s a matter of personal preference?
Liquid olives are logic-defying and by far the best olives I’ve ever had.
Every single dessert we tried at Jaleo shined. These weren’t just decadent delights; they also brought bold flavors and inventive ideas.
Overall, Jaleo makes a strong first impression, but doesn’t quite live up to my own hype for it. I came out of both experiences really liking the restaurant, but not quite loving it. In terms of my Disney Springs Table Service Restaurant Rankings, I’m still not quite sure where Jaleo ends up. It’s in the top 5, which alone says a lot given the caliber of dining at Disney Springs.
However, it probably does not dethrone the Boathouse, Raglan Road, or Morimoto Asia for us. I’m eager to revisit Jaleo, but return visits to that trio (“unfortunately” with so much new dining coming to Disney Springs, it’s been a while) are probably in order first. Nevertheless, Jaleo is a formidable addition to the Disney Springs lineup, but not the new undisputed champion for which I was hoping.
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What do you think of Jaleo by José Andrés? Will you be dining here on your next trip to Disney Springs? Have you tried any of these menu items? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Does this appeal to you more or less than other restaurants at Disney Springs? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Bad place. they say Paella thats its not paella
that is a fry rice or chinese rice
the Bocatas sandwich meke my wife sick inmediatly she begin throw up,
Also to expensive,, don’t go they steal your money 5 beers for $40
Never back again
This is all BS!! Whoever believe this brown rice is paella they should try it! It tastes like japanese teriyaki, nothing to do with spanish paella, croquetas ? What a joke!!!croquetas so soft they had water from the chicken can inside! Jose andres wine ? Come on!!! I admire Jose Andres for his humanitarian work but this is stealing form customers !!! Fideguaaaa jajajaj Japanesse teriyaqui with cabello de angel!! What a shame !!!
I just visited Jaleo in disney!!!
I completely agree! That was not paella. The staff did their best at damage control but that dinner was not able to be saved.
I used to live in Bethesda, MD, where one Jaleo outpost is located, and while I patronized the restaurant several times I can’t say it ever blew me away (perhaps it was my failure to order anything from a shoe). However, from what I’ve read of the Orlando iteration, it’s quite excellent – I may need to give it another go when I’m in my cheerful and generous WDW state of mind!
I am unlikely to use a gift card in the near future (being based in Australia) but I’ve made a donation to World Central Kitchen for those in need of a decent meal.
Very kind of you–it’s a great organization!
I’ve seen these gift card programs a lot now, and while they’re a great idea from a philanthropic perspective (I’ve supported a few restaurants on this basis), I’m not sure they’re necessarily a great financial investment. It’s taking a gamble on whether that particular branch (or another one useful to you) will actually reopen, and I am not sure I’d put the odds at 75%!
I was so excited to see the gift card program offered a few days ago, I immediately purchased gift cards for my parents’ mother’s and father’s day gifts. Such a beautiful gesture from Chef Andrés!
I had the very good fortune of dining at Jaleo on Saturday evening, Dec. 28, 2019 with a group of people and it was perfection personified. From food to our server Aaron. His recommendations were spot on and the vibe was fantastic. However, the highlight for me was meeting the young lady on the other side of the counter who was putting together cheese boards and Serrano ham sandwiches. I stopped by her “artwork” and she gave me some moments of her time to explain the types of cheeses and how long the ham hangs in its aging process. She was so so pleasant beyond words, and my only wish is that I had her name so I could personally thank her for adding to this wonderful dining experience. She even said to please come back again to the restaurant next time we are in Orlando (we live in NYC). Is there any way possible somebody could relay this message to her and even a remote possibility of me learning her name. Maybe even having her contact me with my email address. Thank you very much and I would look forward to hearing from her. (sorry but she had glasses and dark hair and I am sorry I did not ask her name at the time. Respectfully , Les Sloman…… [email protected]
Hi, sorry if I missed it in your review but is this a signature restaurant or normal ? asking because when we go in September we will have the middle tier dining plan
p.s. I love your site and have read hundreds of articles which seem realistic and not skewed too much either way by being big Disney fans, well done
Tom, would you happen to have any info on the NBA Experience opening at Disney Springs on August 12th? (price to get in, for example)
They haven’t released any details whatsoever, and I have no additional info or rumors on it–nothing at all.
Last year we opted out of a Disney vacay in favor of touring Spain for 6 weeks. I can’t WAIT to combine my love of Spanish food + my love of Disney at Jaleo. Regarding your comment on the pan con tomate – it’s a Spanish STAPLE, and if he’s done it right then I’m sure that’s what all the fuss is about.
My boss (a chef of some mild repute himself) recently did the Tasting Menu at Andres’ restaurant in Las Vegas and said it was worth every penny. He has been raving about it, especially the croquettes, ever since.
My wife and I were here last week for dinner, and left impressed. A tasting menu would be a good option!
I love being the first one in. … I also love how WDW bloggers have become defect film, food and cupcake reviewers.
That said, the food looks great and I have friends in D.C. who absolutely swear the place would be where they would have their last meal. As WDW blands down its offerings across the board (been to Tiffins recently?), it’s nice to see Disney Springs pick up the slack. I am not at all impressed with the typical lifestyle centre version of a mall it has become, but the food options are just sick. From top to bottom. I really don’t know where you would have a bad meal. I guess Rainforest Cafe and Earl of Sandwich are the most pedestrian choices, but certainly not bad (I say that based on recent experience with RC in Sunrise and Earl at DLP, so who knows?)
I do know as much as I love Boathouse, STK, Morimoto, Terralina, and HoB to start (no, not a fan of Homecoming … I think Jesus Chicken is just as good! Really!), I will be trying Jaleo whenever I decide to return to WDW.
A question though, what is going to be the first dining casualty of DS in your opinion? Toughie when they are offering freebies and all … but there simply isn’t room for everyone. My money is on Maria & Enzo’s, which I have been to twice now. Care to offer an opinion?
And, please, check your email!!!
Damn autocorrect, that should read DE FACTO …