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The postings on Cartagena are a little light so my wife and I figured we would contribute our findings from a recent 5 night trip to Cartagena Colombia. We found it very easy to eat well here with minimal effort.
Breakfast each morning was at our hotel (Bastion). Both the European style breads/fruits/cheese continental breakfast and the included a la carte eggs menu were great. Can’t say enough good things about the hotel itself - decor, service, rooftop pool, and room were second to none.
Cuzco Cocina - This first dinner was the only “miss” of the trip - we were tired after a travel day and many of the restaurants on our list were closed on Sunday, so we opted for Cuzco Cocina after a quick check of online reviews. We quickly learned to not put much weight into TripAdvisor/google reviews... the menu was about 50 pages long (never a good sign) and wasn’t quite the up to par with the recommendations we normally get from this site. Food wasn’t bad per se, it just wasn’t anything special. Skip.
Carmen - Excellent. Very interesting menu, well executed cooking. Would likely be a starred restaurant if this were in a larger city. Every seafood dish we had was stellar. All sauces were on the rich side...also delicious but I cannot imagine having the tasting menu as my wife and I were completely full after splitting 2 apps/2 mains.
Moshi - shares a space with Carmen under the same ownership. Equally excellent - the seafood stew main was my favorite meal of the trip. Bills itself as a Japanese restaurant, but we did not find the influence to be as overt as expected, so don’t let that deter you if you’re not in the mood for Japanese. Highly recommend, but still advise staying away from the tasting menu as the sauces here were equally heavy (and delicious).
DonJuan - Probably our favorite overall dinner of the trip. Not “better” than Carmen/Moshi (about equal), but we love Spanish cooking - and you can definitely see the San Sebastián influence here. Standouts were the crab claws and the Sea Bass with Lemon Risotto. Deceptively simple but tons of flavor. Seemed to be the most in demand restaurant we visited - highly recommend booking ahead as they do not have a bar that’s large enough to enjoy a meal.
El Boliche - Ate here twice, once for lunch and once for dinner. Lunch was excellent. Papaya Ceviche was super fresh and well balanced with the right amount of heat. Tamarind ceviche also very good. Don’t leave without orderining the crab empanadas, they were some of the best we’ve had. The table next to us ordered some delicious looking hot dishes which prompted us to make a dinner reservation to try more of the menu. Unfortunately, the some of the hot dishes looked better than they were (we had the giant prawns, seafood mix grill). Fresh seafood but both were under seasoned, lacked deep flavor and the charcoal from the grill was a bit overpowering.
La Mulata - great pick for lunch. Casual and simple Caribbean seafood joint. We had the seafood soup, whole fried fish, and tamarind pork. The fish was a standout. Perfectly crisp and seasoned well.
El Burlador - Spanish tapas place we tried for lunch. Recommend if you are in town and have already hit the others, but not quite on par with Carmen/Moshi or DonJuan.
Others we wanted to try but didn’t make it to: Maria, La Perla.
Hope this helps!
Reservations were hard to come by but we had luck arriving at the time they open and asking for bar seats. We came here for drinks a second time and this strategy seemed to consistently work as the dinner crowds don’t really hit until at least 8 or 8:30.