Barcal is a restaurant in Medellin, Colombia that offers a tasting menu (and optional beverage pairing which we got) focused on Colombian cuisine. The meal highlights the great diversity of the country.
What is even more impressive, is that the chef, Miguel Warren Mora, is only 24 years old and started the restaurant when he was 20! He previously trained in San Sebastian. If he is already doing amazing things now, I can not imagine the type of food he will be putting out in 10 years. The meal was fantastic, with a few misses.
The dining room is modern with a Colombian feel. There is inside and outside seating, with a nice view of the kitchen.
- Colombian amaijos – These were basically small Colombian breads. One was filled with Yuca. Served with a whipped cheese and butter with coffee sprinkles. The pairing was Chicha – a non-alcoholic fermentation of yellow corn and sugar cane. The butter with the coffee worked very well together to my surprise. The breads were absolutely delicious – perfect temperature, seasoning and texture. (I have grown to love the little bread balls in this country – there is a chain called Mr. Bono which serves larger versions of the below; its so good!). The chicha paired well with the dish and enhanced the flavors.
2. Pickled beet, Colombian pipian and peanuts. Toasted bread, smoked trout, and berry. Paired with a Colombian craft beer. The presentation was beautiful. The beet was very acidic and the trout had good, but mild flavor as did the beer (I don’t usually like beer but the portion was very small and the taste was very mild).
3. Fish skin brittle with plantain and vanilla vinegar. Pickled tomato juice. This dish was outstanding. On its own, the food was good, but once you sip the juice with it, the taste of a great ceviche fills your mouth and all the flavors come through like the cilantro. Outstanding.
4. Cured fish, coconut milk, lime puree, oxalis plant, and manioc. The coconut milk and and fish were great, and the crisp was like a giant corn flake. However, I did not like the pairing which was a Arrechon Guapi – Cauca. The alcohol overpowered everything and the yogurt texture of the drink did not go well with the rest of the dish.
5. This was another outstanding dish. Prawn from Uraba, plantain and dry Guajiro shrimp. The Shrimp was perfectly cooked and the broth was outstanding. It was like a bisque with tremendous flavor extracted from the shrimp. Served with a Chardonnay.
6. Suckling Pig confit, guasca emulsion, and cucumber. This was another outstanding dish. The skin of the pig was crispy, but not tough, and the meat was moist and tender – perfect amount of fat. It was slightly over-seasoned though it was so slight I could not decide if it was over or perfect. Paired with a Syrah, which I thought worked well though a less bold red would have been better.
7. Beef and ants from Santander paired with a Cab. The sauce was good, beef was very tender. The ants added texture but not much flavor. Overall, an Ok dish.
8. The final savory dish was smoked rabbit and coconut. Served with an arepa and aguardiente (I also ordered another aguardiente aged in oak; aguardiente is a Colombian alcohol flavored with anise, it reminds me of Greek Ouzo but not as harsh and very easy to drink) . This dish reminded me of “butter chicken”. It was good.
9. Green guava sorbet and pine tree. When they bring you this dish, they will ask you to smell it for the essence of pine. Its fantastic. The smell is very refreshing. Nice way to transition to the sweet part of the meal. The aroma they achieved of the pine was fantastic.
10. Star fruit, borojo and cashew. This dish to me was a miss as were all the desserts. The star fruit lacked flavor, and I could not taste cashew. The dish lacked depth and was bland. Pastry/Dessert is an area the restaurant needs to improve.
11. Blackberry, smoked milk, and cidron. The smoked milk was good, but the dessert was off. Kind of bland.
12. Chocolate sphere. Tea. The chocolate was ok. The tea was very good.
Overall, this was an outstanding meal. The small savory misses and the lackluster desserts did not overshadow the fantastic savory dishes and pairings. I would return. As mentioned above, the chef is so young that this will be a 3 Michelin star place down the road if the ratings came to Colombia. Service was excellent. Portions were perfect. You will leave feeling neither stuffed nor hungry, which is the way tasting menus should be. Some tastings menus are a struggle to get through. This was a pleasure. 9.5/10