Restaurante Don Juan, Cartagena
February 24, 2011
Juan Felipe Camacho is a young chef who has trained at Arzak, Akelere and Martín Berasategui, in and around San Sebastián, the center of influential, modern Spanish cuisine. In 2009 he opened Restaurante Don Juan in Cartagena de Indias, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Linda and I went for dinner on February 10, 2011.
We were welcomed warmly after they determined that we had a reservation and seated opposite the window into the kitchen. We ordered a bottle of Casa Lapostelle Sauvignon Blanc from the extensive operations in Chile of the family best known for Grand Marnier. It was very good with typical sauvignon blanc characteristics. An English–speaking waiter helped us with our orders from the menu in Spanish, which has quite a few choices, almost all of them local fish and seafood. Two hot fresh breadrolls arrived.
Linda’s first course was
Colita de langosta asada con infusion de mantequilla, ajo y limón
The tail of a local spiny lobster was fresh and good, made richer and more flavorful with butter, garlic and lemon juice. Delicious.
My starter was
Pulpo laminado con lagrimas de oliva, cherries y cilantro
This pretty plate was covered with a very thinly sliced carpaccio of octopus enhanced with good olive oil and cilantro. Excellent.
Linda went on to
Mero asado a la parilla sobre risotto de limón y parmesano
A piece of fresh grouper was grilled and served with a luscious lemon and parmesan cheese risotto. Very good.
My main course was
Lomo de pargo rojo a la sartén, salsa de chorizo y jerez, hinojo fresc
A large chunk of red snapper was cooked in a frying pan. It was served on top of snow peas with a sauce of Spanish sausage, sherry and fennel. The fish was a bit dry, but full of flavor and enhanced by the well-planned sauce. The little dish of coconut rice served alongside was pure white, unlike all the rest of the coconut rice we have had in Cartagena. It had a good, pure coconut flavor.
Cubos de piña colada con helado de coco y suero.
The pineapple chunks were topped by an ice cream of coconut and whey. A good refreshing finish.
The meal was very enjoyable. The ingredients were fresh and enhanced by the preparations. The effect was of local cuisine, but the technique was more Spanish. The pace was good; the service was always efficient and friendly. Here you can see the chef, who was usually very active in the kitchen, visiting with a table of diners.
Don Juan is clearly the best restaurant in Cartagena. This meal would be worthy of a Michelin starred restaurant in any country. Bravo.
We went out into the always fascinating streets of Cartagena for the walk home to our hotel.
34-60 Calle del Colegio, Cartagena, Colombia