There's nothing quite like basking in the warm Caribbean December afternoon, with a Lolu Mojito in hand. The colonial city of Cartagena Colombia is charming beyond belief, everything from the cobble stone roads, to the rich vibrant balconies, to the spirited street vendors selling the ripest mangoes and the sweetest coconuts. Every narrow alleyway is brimming with antiquity and adventure. With so much history to this walled city, it's no wonder Cartagena's Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage site.
Carmen Restaurant in Cartagena embodies the very soul of the city. The dishes are as vibrant and colorful as Colombia itself. The al fresco dining is relaxed and unostentatious. The preparations are bold and rich.
AMUSE BOUCHE | Egg Yolk, Rock Shrimp, Squid Ink
The amuse bouche pays homage to Chef Alain Passard's signature dish: the Arpège Egg. Nestled inside the shell is a perfectly cooked rock shrimp, swimming in a golden egg yolk, and topped off with a rich creamy seafood foam. Carmen's rendition of this Passard's egg begins to set the pace for the seafood centric experience.
GALUPA CEVICHE | White Fish, Camote, Galupa Fruit Tigers Milk
PLAYA BLANCA | Octopus & Rock Shrimp Ceviche, Edible Sand, Coconut Foam
This plate of rock shrimp ceviche was the winner of the day. The octopus and shrimp are seasoned to perfection. But what truly ties the plate together is in the details. The coconut foam plays to the sweetness of the fish. The delicate dusting of the "edible sand", laced with nori flakes, adds the perfect texture to each bite. This is smart cooking.
PARGO PLATERO | Snapper, Yellow Curry, Lychee Chimichurri
The seafood centric theme continues with the pargo platero, a bold and modern interpretation of the traditional Caribbean dish of the same name. A snapper fillet is dressed table-side with a silky coconut curry.
CITRUS | Sorbet
TRUFFEL RAVIOLI | Nori Butter, Pistachio Sand
DUCK | Barley Risotto, Duck Chorizo, Beet Cognac Gastrique
LOMO FINO | 24-month Parmigiano Reggiano Crust Ravioli, Bone Marrow Bordelaise
TROPICAL | COROZO & NATA
To end the meal, a flurry of signature Colombian flavors in the form of sorbets and ice creams come our way. The TROPICAL features an orange lemongrass sorbet, nestled atop a fine brazil nut crumble, and topped with an araza espuma. The COROZO & NATA is a milk ice cream swimming in a chilled corozo soup and lychee puree.
TURRON DE CHOCOLATE | Coconut Ice Cream
BOCADILLO | Candied Guava Ice Cream
The TURRON DE CHOCOLATE is a rich coconut ice cream, 65% Colombian Chocolate, with a dollop of amazonian copoazú espuma. The BOCADILLO is a clever take on a traditional Colombian pastry which is very reminiscent of a cream cheese guava pastry. Carmen's rendition features a candied guava ice cream and a camembert espuma. It was delightful.
Croissants and Caviar's TL;DR:
Carmen delivers on so many levels. The flavors are bold and truly Colombian. When in Cartagena, this restaurant is a must.