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All words: Riley Croghan
All photos: Stephanie Breijo

You don’t need to ask if the new brunch at Jaleo is fantastic. Search your feelings, you know it to be true already. Brunch is the epicenter of the D.C. food scene, and José Andrés is its shining star. Combining the two seems almost unfair.

Still, it’s hard to resist the urge to dote on favorites, so when Jaleo invited us over to sample the new offerings on their brunch menu this month, I skipped breakfast, threw on my eating pants, and headed right over.

The thing that stands out most about the new offerings is how many fish-based dishes are being offered, especially considering that most brunch menus only really veer ichthyic with a take on the classic bagel and lox. For Jaleo, the smoked salmon is just a jumping off point, but a beautiful take on the concept nonetheless. The salmon is served up on crispy, lightly oiled cristal bread, with a generous base of goat cheese taking the place of the traditional cream cheese. The secret to an attempt to eat everything on a menu is, of course, to just sample bits of everything, but I feel no shame in admitting that we demolished every last bite you see pictured here. It is even better than it looks.

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The salmon has a cousin in the featured brunch offering, also featuring toasted cristal bread and a fish, though one you don’t often see at brunch; here we have Spanish sardines served on top of diced tomatoes. If you’re imagining the American variety, which are salted and oiled to the point where that’s really all you taste, you’re imagining completely the wrong thing. These tender little fish go down with a subtle flavor that has only the slightest hint of their briny origins.

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Of course, if you DID wake up slightly hungover and inexplicably craving a much more intense seafood dish (we don’t judge) Jaleo has you covered. Order the huevos estrellados—a base meal with tender, thin cut fried potatoes and eggs that will be delicious no matter what you put on it—with a hearty sea urchin topping.

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Brunch traditionalists still have plenty to choose from. Jaleo resurrected its take on French toast (Spanish toast here, of course) from a previous brunch menu, and my sweet tooth is grateful that they did. The bread is lightly crisped on the outside, gooey inside, and topped with carmelized plantains and a subtly sweet rum-infused whipped cream.

But that’s enough praise from me. Just take a look at the other great small plates on the menu. LOOK AT THEM:

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