Now, this is not the place you’re going to hear anyone badmouthing bandeja paisa. At least one of our staff may just have had one in the last hour or so, and we’re told they found it gut-bustingly good. We’ll have to admit, however, that it’s generally not particularly fancy, romantic, or, let’s face it, high-end contemporary. That’s possibly why it’s not on the otherwise impressive menu at Carmen’s.
High-end contemporary dining, you have arrived in Medellin. And a lot of the thanks should go to this beautifully designed foodie shrine. Here, you’ll discover some top-notch local meat and produce lent some refreshingly Asian touches cooked in the best French tradition, all presented with a distinctively Californian flair. You’ll notice a few hints of the latest gastronomic techniques, both from the kitchen and in the service; but well-constructed dishes bursting with bold flavours don’t let things get too precious or ethereal – the banh mi is beautifully turned out in the best contemporary style, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a plate of sandwiches; and the tenderloin may well be dry-aged, but that doesn’t stop it from being good old steak and spuds. The ice-cream – if you permit us to continue our theme – may come in amazing, cutting-edge flavours like cinnamon toast or popcorn, and the plating could possibly have been overseen by a calmer, less intoxicated Jackson Pollock, but it is ice-cream. Delicious comfort food given an artful, modern treatment. The result of all of this is some of the best high-end food you’ll find in the country. It wouldn’t be out of place in other, more familiar fine-dining capitals around the world.
The design of Carmen beautifully matches the philosophy expressed in the food. Clean, unfussy lines, with a slight retro touch, do just enough to create the right kind of atmosphere. The outside patio is a highlight. If you want to propose to that special someone, may we suggest booking a gorgeous little private booth in the garden? If you do that, you may just be in with a chance.
Carrera 36 # 10A-27; El Poblado
Entreés from COP$ 20,000
Mains from COP$ 35,000
5 course degustation: COP$ 106,000; with matched wine: $144,000
Gilesy says: To tell you the truth, I was worried about going to Carmen, because, just like Flava Flav, I’ve often been disappointed with things that have a lot of hype surrounding them. I shouldn’t have worried. While the phantom of my OCD-suffering restaurant-owning former boss haunted me with a few details (my grenadilla pisco sour was delicious but had a slightly gross colour; the lights in one of the men’s toilets was out; and I’m not really sure what message about the food they’re sending by having Listerine available in said loos), I remain completely enthusiastic about this place. Big, bold flavours with a contemporary States-side twist done to perfection in a beautifully-designed, understated environment. One other quibble, however: although the service was efficient and quietly cheerful, my inner five-year-old boy was a little sad that he felt the staff didn’t really care about him enough. I like unobtrusive service, but I still want to feel the love. Having said that, it was a pumpingly busy Friday night, so, really, fair enough!