The second day of our Memorial Day weekend trip in Cartagena, Colombia, started with a morning tour of the Old Town neighborhood. It was very hot and humid throughout the walking tour and my wife Jun and I were both starting to feel exhausted and dehydrated. Once the tour was over, we headed straight for lunch at another leading upscale restaurant in the city and finally relaxed inside Donjuan’s air conditioned dining room. The restaurant has reportedly been popular with Colombia politicians, including the president, so I put it on the top of our list. In fact, there was no available reservation online for Friday or Saturday dinner, so I had to settle for Friday lunch. It was a lunch stop that was well worth making before we moved on to do other things in the afternoon.
Given that Cartagena is a port city, Jun and I had planned on getting as much seafood as possible and that is precisely what we did. There were some meat dishes on the menu, but we both agreed that the shrimps with chipotle and corn “bollo” and mango chimichurri would be our appetizer to kick off the meal. While the chipotle flavor wasn’t as spicy as Jun would have liked, it was still a very good dish where the shrimp worked harmoniously with the soft texture of the corn. Oh, and we ordered another shrimp dish for our main, a jumbo shrimp pan-fried over vegetables and lemon creamy sauce, with a side of the Colombian staple coconut rice. I was very much in love with the robust, crunchy texture of the shrimp and the coconut rice (as I would later learn from other restaurants in the city) was quite addictive. On our prior night, we had sea bass with coconut rice risotto at Carmen, but the server highly recommended their own version of grilled sea bass with lemon risotto and parmesan so we ordered it anyways. Jun actually liked the risotto at Donjuan better, while I thought both dishes were relatively comparable in deliciousness. For dessert, the pineapple cubes flambeed in rum with coconut ice cream on top turned out to be the winner. The smoky kick of the pineapple (one of my favorite fruits in the world) along with the sweet (but not too sweet) flavor of coconut ice cream worked out quite well together.
As noted above, getting a reservation at Donjuan can be a challenge, especially at dinner. If you are inclined to check it out while you are in Cartagena, make sure to book in advance. While it was somewhat surprising that the servers didn’t speak English as well as I had expected, the service was still relatively smooth. We were both very thirsty and yearning for refreshing white wine and ended up ordering a bottle from Spain. One thing to note to Cartagena is that the wine is on the pricier side, whether at restaurants or wine shops; I guess for a country that scarcely produces wine on its own, that probably makes sense. The dining space was trendy with a Mediterranean vibe that turned out to be quite ideal for a leisurely lunch. If you want to see another leader of Colombian cuisine in Cartagena, Donjuan is one of the restaurants you should consider including in your itinerary.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.0/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8/0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: Calle del Colegio # 34-60 Local 1, Centro Histórico, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Telephone: +57-5- 664-3678