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Thursday, October 16, 2014

La Dolce Vita - Restaurant, Casco Viejo

Hola a todos! Hoy les escribo en español, pues les tengo que compartir algo muy gracioso y todo lo ocurrido ha sido en español (find a brief English explanation below).

A mi me encanta el sitio web DegustaPanama.com. El contenido y la utilidad son excelentes, y lo he visto crecer y cambiar, siempre para mejor, desde el día que empezó.

Me encanta escribir reseñas y lo cierto es que hay quienes no toleran la critica. Desde que comencé este blog me han llegado unos cuantos comentarios muy a la defensiva...y siempre groseros. El que no entiende el propósito de la critica no suele tener buenos modales...ni redacción ;)

Si abres un restaurante, tienes que entender que no a todos les va gustar. Y los que nos dedicamos a escribir reseñas lo hacemos para detallar nuestra experiencia sin preocuparnos por los sentimientos de los dueños...solo por relatar lo sucedido, lo experimentado, desde el punto de vista de uno.

Pero supongo que todos ustedes saben eso ya!

Asi que en vez de seguir, les voy a poner sin editar 1- la reseña que escribi y que fue aprobada y publicada por DegustaPanama.com, 2- el mensaje que me mando alguien con el apodo "Dolce V." (no firmo nombre ni explico su afiliacion con el restaurante). 

Que opinas sobre las personas que no toleran la critica?

Buen dia!







La Dolce Vita

Internacional, Italiana
Estaba caminando con una amiga en Casco y decidimos entrar a ver que tal. El lugar estaba vacío pero el mesero nos pregunto si teníamos reserva. No obstante fue muy amable y nos sentó en una mesita para dos. Solo hay como tres mesas en la parte inferior, con mesa mas grande en la parte superior. Los espacios no estan bien diseñados (si, el tapiz de pared es bonito pero cero feng shui). Solo habian dos meseros, lo cual esta bien puesto que es un lugar verdaderamente pequeño, pero se olvidaban de nosotras y fue una molestia conseguir que nos tomaran la orden, pedir la cuenta, etc. Todo super demorado. La comida se supone que es italiana pero de "amuse-bouche" nos trajeron unos chips de tortilla de paquete (tipo Tostitos) con un dip, en un platito de plástico rosado. Super extraño la verdad. Pedimos de entrada melanzane a la parmigiana (berenjena), el sabor bueno pero no toda la berenjena estaba bien cocida asi que una parte medio cruda. Y para mi un poco muy salado. Tuvimos que pedir servilleta dos veces...y en un restaurante "fino" (es decir, caro) deberían tener servilletas de tela, no de papel. De plato fuerte pedimos ravioli de zapallo con salvia y mantequilla. El mesero nos aseguró que el ravioli era "artesanal" hecha en casa pero lo hallé muy grueso en lo que a la masa se refiere. El sabor bueno pero la textura no. Y nos cobraron $15 cada una por una porción que solo se puede describir como una porción media. Las dos somos de comer muy poco, pero esto fue un abuso. De postre solo tenían tiramisu, muy rico la verdad. La cuenta tenia varias cosas demas, tomamos vino y Perrier y para dos personas la cuenta fue de $95, lo cual me parece demasiado para un restaurante con comida nada especial y atencion mala (son amables pero desorganizados, no es muy cómodo tener que buscar al mesero para que te atienda). Total, no me parece buen valor asi que no lo recomiendo.
26 AGO2014




Respuesta a comentario en La Dolce Vita





Dolce V.Hoy a las 2:17 pm

Buenas tarde srta ante todo le ofrecemos excusas por la demora en contestar su mensaje. Lo sentimos mucho por su comentario y nos disculpamos por lo sucedido, pero en esa noche teniamos un evento con 25 personas mas los clientes de rutina..por ende no es cierto que estaba vacio. Pero aqui estamos para escuchar las cricticas contrictivas y no destructiva como la suya. Nuestro restaurante esta afiliado a esta pagina para recibir cricticas que nos ayudan a mejorar. Nosotros les recordamos muy bien de ustedes...y en realidad senora, en calidad de miembro foodie de Degusta, usted hizo una critica no totalmente exacta ademas de tener toda la intencion de hacernos imagen negativa, Nosotros no abusamos de nuestros clientes..al contrario! i los comentario hablan x si solos.. tenemos los precios mas bajo de todo Casco antiguo.( encuanto a nuestro rango se refiere), su cuenta no fue de $95, fue de $75, donde consumieron mas en vino y perrier que en comida... encuanto a la comida estamos seguros de ser autenticos puesto que son realizadas en casa (pasta), queremos recordarle que la ambientacion del restaurante no es ni sera de objetivo feng-shui nuestro acogedor sitio es nueva tendencia europea Glam Vintage, y esta inspirado en una pleicula italiana de los 50.

Solo queremos decirle que un comentario construtivo se encuentra muy lejos de lo que usted hizo. Total, como miembro foodie no tiene claro como expresar una critica. lo sentimos...........





SO IN ENGLISH, WHAT'S THIS ALL ABOUT?

Well ladies and gents, I have been schooled! I wrote a review in Spanish about a new Italian restaurant in Casco Antiguo called Dolce Vita. My comments were approved and published on my favorite review site DegustaPanama.com. Someone with the username "Dolce V" chose to respond and chew me out. 

I've published my original review, no edits, above, along with Dolce V's passive-aggressive diatribe against me.

If you read the Spanish above, you can see that my review was unfavorable, but not nasty. I tempered my "it's blah" comments with positive remarks about the courteous manner in which we were received, the eggplant parm, and the tiramisu.

Can't say the same for the defensive, personally insulting response I received, apparently from someone affiliated with La Dolce Vita in Casco Viejo (I can't be sure who, they didn't sign a name or give a title). It's starts out with a few "I'm sorry"s and goes on to point out 1- that they only want constructive criticism, not negative criticism (um...how do you explain to someone this clueless that constructive criticism can be favorable or not; if you're in business you learn from either?! I'm not going to bother, as Dolce V. obviously has it all figured out and doesn't need any feedback from the likes of me. Will be very interesting to see if this place lasts as long as others in Casco, it's a very quick turnover!). 2 - that I don't know how to write a review, as I'm attacking instead of helping.

Oh and the writing is atrocious...sorry, it had to be said.

Not sure who sent the message but my first impression is: what a bunch of whiners!

What do you think about restaurateurs who can't take a critique?

Happy eating!


PanamaVeggie

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Restaurant - Camila's

Torre oceania. Planta baja - Punta Pacifica
tel: 215-3703

Loved the ambiance and energy, and very much appreciated that the waiters kept checking on us so we never had to go out of our way to get served etc. The only kind of funny thing was that when we asked our waiter to take a photo for us, he said yes and that he'd be right back, and then walked off and never came back (he passed our table several times after that). We asked a different waiter and the exact same thing happened. Finally we asked a third gentleman who complied. I know it's sometimes annoying to waiters to have to take picture after picture, especially when larger groups ask for shots with each person's cell or camera (there were only three of us at our table)...but hey, it's a part of life when you're a server. We live in the age of Facebook and Instagram, and if people are having fun and enjoying your restaurant, they will want photos. But overall staff was very attentive and efficient.

As for the food, I didn't care for my risotto, as it was described on the menu as a portabella mushroom risotto with blue cheese, but turned out to be made with a couple different rehydrated mushrooms (porcini and perhaps another). Good depth of flavor but I do not care for the texture of rehydrated mushrooms and would not have ordered the dish had I known that's what I'd get. I was craving that fresh portabella flavor, not porcini.

I did get to sample the three cheese risotto and thought the flavor wonderful, if I go again that is what I'll order.

We were served cassava fries with two dips on the house when we were first seated, very tasty and a very nice touch. I am happy to spend a little more for dinner at a nice restaurant when it's clear that management wants to please you.

After we ordered our second bottle of wine (the ambiance makes you want to linger) a waiter brought us a tuna tartar over avocado on the house. It was very sweet of him...though we had to laugh, as we had had a conversation with him when we arrived about the fact that two out of three of us were strict vegetarians and did not eat fish or seafood. So only one of us sampled the tuna (apparently it was spot on)...I did try the avocado and a bit of the dressing and it was delicious. 

Major downsides: 1- the menu is a bit boring. Same old risotto, tuna tartar, etc. that you will find in every "international" restaurant in this town! And 2- the ladies room, it seems, is always filthy by the end of the night. Needs to be monitored throughout the evening. Also, only one stall is inadequate for such a large restaurant.

This restaurant impresses with some pros: 1- Open till late, so we could linger on a Saturday night and enjoy our wine. I hate having to go elsewhere and will forever be loyal to a place where I can have dinner and then hang out for a bit, no need to get in my car and drive somewhere else. 2- Fairly large, so we were able to get a table even though we didn't book as far in advance as we normally do. 3- Though not cheap, I felt they try to give you your money's worth, 4- The bathroom has its good points...girls, we like well-lit bathrooms with big mirrors, don't we?.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

And Today - Restaurants That Never Had a Chance


I know...my reviews are usually all happy happy joy. But today is National B*tch Day, so in honor of all you cranky biatches out there, here's my list of restaurants that never really had a chance with me...just so's you know I wont ever be reviewing them!

 1. Beirut (The One in Obarrio, not the Causeway) - My sister and I sat down and waited for ten minutes. After three servers passed us without a welcome, a menu, or a glass of water, we decided we'd rather spend our money elsewhere.

 2. Adaggio - We're really sorry, but when we walked in on a Saturday night to find it empty and the tv blaring, we could tell it wasn't our kind of place. So after you served the water, we snuck out. (We feel really bad about it, yo.)

 3. Grapes - We booked a table for two and when we arrived we were told it was occupied. The girl went on to tell us there was only one table for two, and restaurant policy was to book it for one-hour reservations, even though they knew everyone stayed much longer than an hour. Sayonara!

 4. Davinci - Why you be hatin' on vegetarians? I want the salad without the bacon, biatch!

 5. Puerta de Tierra - Actually, you seem really nice. But you're a steakhouse and I'm a vegetarian. Probably not going to happen.

 6. La Parada del Shawarma - Your tables are in the way and I need to get my mail. Die! Die!

 7. Ginger (at the Waldorf Astoria) - I tried the Brio Brasserie upstairs twice and while the wait staff tried very hard to give refined service, the food was underwhelming (the desserts were beyond blah).

 8. Jaleo - Ever since I saw your staff helping one of your dumb-a*s diners set off a box of fireworks IN THE STREET AS I WAS DRIVING DOWN IT, I have had you on my "f*ck no" list.

9. Casa Tua - Inappropriate art much? Just kidding, I love you! Hate the decor, love your food.

 Oh, and P.S. biatches:

 10. Osteria - One of my favorites, but I am miffed at you guys. I used DegustaPanama.com to make my very first online reservation (very cool) and then you called me on Friday f*cking night to say that you had a private function on Saturday and we weren't invited. Um, thanks.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Restaurant - Azafran


The food was great (small portions, which I like, but others might leave hungry), loved the presentation of the classic Spanish potatoes (papas bravas). Not a huge menu and limited options for vegetarians but I think possibly the chef would be willing to accommodate special requests,I got the impression he was very hands on. My favorite thing was the ambiance, so simple and elegant. With so many restaurants in the "trying too hard" bracket I cannot tell you how refreshing it was to sit in a place with true style. Would love to go back but I got the sense that they closed everything down early and I like to linger over wine on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night...I vote for slightly extended hours and an inviting "stay as long as you like" attitude on those days :) I mean, the decor is so perfect, you want to sit and enjoy! Definitely recommend this place for couples, out-of-towners, or anyone else! P.S. This place is perfectly decorated for brunch, fingers crossed they add this as an option on Saturdays or Sundays! Located in Avenida Los Fundadores, between streets 75 & 76, San Francisco, local tel: 399-9186 As you may know, San Francisco is divided by Calle 50, so this restaurant is in the sector of San Franscisco that is south of Calle 50 (that is, close to the big Sheraton hotel).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Madrigal (Restaurant)

With so many new restaurants opening in this city every year, most are bound to disappoint. So I was extremely surprised (and pleasantly so) to find that Madrigal exceeded my expectations, from the decadent tasting menu, to the chef's positive attitude toward vegetarians (others in Casco can be positively Medieval), to the perfect vodka martini I ordered before dinner. 

It was a pleasure to see the chef so engaged--he frequently stepped into the dining room to converse with patrons. His easy, friendly manner and the excellent waitstaff (the service was a notch above anything else I've experienced in the city) made the evening very enjoyable.

The tasting menu was an experience...worth every penny, so if you're planning to indulge, this is the place to do it! The dishes that stood out in my mind (made specially for this vegetarian by the accommodating chef):

cold cubes of beet "tartar" (very fresh and tart)...a perfectly poached egg sitting in a pumpkin pot o' creme (fragrant with the smell of truffle)...singed herbs with a vegetable "shishkebab" sitting on top, uncovered at the table to release the smoke and engage all the senses...vegetarian "paella" made with rich black rice (slightly toasted, perhaps, as there was a smoky flavor and happy hint of crispness to the texture)...and a spongy, strawberry topped dessert that defied description.

With every course we groaned that we were full, and pled with the waiter to stop (but we greedily ate every last bite).

High hopes for this place (hope it's consistent, I'll let you know when I go back!)

The Panama Veggie bottom line (on a scale of 1-5, with 1 = a troll could do better and 5 = I proposed to the chef):

Service: 4
Food (quality/authenticity/appearance/temperature): 5
Menu (creativity, variety, ability to make mouth water): 5
Atmosphere: 4
Vegetarian friendly: 4
Overall value: 4

Price: Get an appie and a main from about $35 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Capital Bistro Panama (Restaurant)


CBP, located in Casco Viejo, Ave. Eloy Alfaro, near the entrance to Casco.

How we got there: we started at the Plaza Catedral, where the Canal Museum and Cathedral of Panama are located. We slipped out of the plaza via a little walkway between Café Rene and La Forchetta restaurants, then hung a left. After a couple blocks or so, we turned right at the Escuela Republica de Mexico (a large building, easy to spot). We passed Grapes restaurant on our left, and Tinto de Verano restaurant on our right, and at the end of the street turned left. A few steps and CBP terrace was on our right, on the water.)

Hola fellow food seekers!

Recently tried this place for the first time, here are the notes from our evening, straight from the PanamaVeggie notepad:

Called on Saturday morning to reserve for Saturday evening, was told they could accommodate a group of three, no problem. Asked for a table on the upstairs terrace, as I’d heard this was a desirable area.

On arrival: “Where’s the restaurant?” We saw the terrace and at first couldn’t figure whether we were supposed to walk right up to it (yes) or find a building with a main entrance. The restaurant is actually below the terrace, below ground level. So, we walked right up to the bar area/terrace to be seated.

We told a waitress (there wasn’t really a hostess station) that we had a reservation and after a bit of confusion she found someone to lead us to our table…or so we thought. We were led to a little bar with chairs facing the water. Side-by-side seating…not exactly conducive to conversation when there are more than two in your party! Plus, the bar was very narrow. We knew we’d be uncomfortable. (I suggest that seating be offered to walk-ins. When someone calls to reserve a table, you should give them…what? Yes, that’s right, a table).

We told the man seating us that we’d like to see what else was available, and he said: “go up to the hostess and ask her yourself.” Nice service. And he kept calling me “nena” (baby). Ick! Zero manners.

I showed my displeasure and the dude wanted to sit there and argue with me. A bit aggravating.

There was a hostess (manager? owner?) who overheard us (she speaks English) and to her credit, she asked us to please not leave/give her a few moments. She then came back and offered to seat us indoors (though she didn’t understand why a party of three wouldn’t want the dinky counter seating).

Anyhoo, when we got downstairs/indoors, she handed us over to simpering maitre d’ with a ponytail who said they were full, and that he’d give us a table…but we’d have to promise to be out of there by 9 p.m.

Why on earth would we stay at a restaurant that wants to kick us out before we have a chance to finish our wine or order dessert?

We were already frustrated…2 out of 3 had wanted to leave immediately after our treatment on the terrace, so at this point we were like “forget it.” We were going to leave, unhappy that it being Saturday evening, we’d be unable to get a reservation elsewhere in Casco. But the MD said to wait, that he wanted to make us happy, and he remembered that he had one group he could move. Long story short, he did some juggling to give us a table without a ticking time limit.

He made a big show of flourishing his reservation book, asking me to read it (like I’m there to do his job and find myself a table…? I didn’t get it or particularly like his attitude…but he resolved the issue, so kudos to him for that).

Ok, so at this point things could tip either way…but they’d gone to lengths to keep us there, and that does count for something (in my book), so as we took our seats, I was fully prepared to forget about all the above and just enjoy the evening.

Our waitress Diana was delightful. She welcomed us with a smile and said she hoped we’d forgive the inconvenience and enjoy the evening. We told her that we were sure we would, seeing her smile convinced us of that.

We ordered a bottle of Altos Las Hormigas Malbec, $35, and a caipirinha, which was served in a tiny tumbler, $12. (If you’re going to charge this much, fine, but make sure the customer gets more than a sip on ice.)

There is only one vegetarian item on the menu, a main, and you can guess from my other reviews what the main ingredient was! (Sigh, mushrooms. Of course! What other ingredients are there for vegetarians!?)

We’d have liked to start with a salad or something, but were told the chef made absolutely no modifications or accommodations for special diets of any kind. My non-vegetarian friend ordered a pulpo plate with an olive tapenade which she said, with a shrug, was okay. We had nothing but store-bought rolls to munch on while she had her appetizer. The white dinner rolls were served with your choice of plain butter or plain olive oil.

Oh BTW they force you to order bottled water, no free tap water, though the water in Casco is perfectly drinkable and all the other restaurants offer free water.

My main, the mushroom/truffle ravioli ($18), had an excellent flavor profile, with a slice of truffle on top. The pasta was masterfully made and simply wrapped, like a folded napkin, around the filling (unfortunately the wrapping was a bit too soft, a common failing when working with fresh pasta). The cream on top was gloppy…way too heavy for the delicate little package beneath. Very small serving but filling enough for me; I don’t like massive servings anyway. A dish with a great deal of potential, but some issues in the execution.

We’d heard good things about the desserts (the fondant) but weren’t in the mood to try, so perhaps another time.

Overall, we felt the service was hit-and-miss depending on which server you got. Our waitress was excellent, but the waiter who’d first tried to seat us upstairs represents the worst of the worst. For such an expensive restaurant, we expected better.

The ambiance: The terrace is as cute as we’d heard described, softly lit and right by the water. Lovely (if you can get a table). The indoor areas are two, one just below the terrace, where we sat, plus there’s one more level below that, where you’ll find the bathrooms (only one for each gender), the kitchen, a sort of office, a little bar, and a small outdoor area (presumably you can smoke here).

We were very pleased with the area where we were seated, noting the quilted pattern on the booth seating, the weathered wood between us and the adjacent table, and the European motif wallpaper. The lamp overhead hung a bit low, and the seats were too low for the table, which as a result felt a bit too close to our chins!

We stayed till late, finishing our wine, and noted that the kitchen stayed open, taking orders as late as 10:45 p.m. Not a lot of places do this, so CBP could carve a niche for itself as a late-night place. (That said, did you know that Tantalo, also in Casco Viejo, has "midnight snack" opening hours? cool huh?)

Oh, by the way, there was an entire row of tables along the windows that stayed empty, from about 730pm when we got there to nearly 11pm when we left. So what all the fuss was about in finding us a table, we really don’t know.

The ambiance is excellent, so I’m not unwilling to go back (maybe in a few months). I found it a bit overpriced for what you get, but it’s a tourist area so I didn’t complain. I just put CBP in my "tourist trap" file.

The Panama Veggie bottom line (on a scale of 1-5, with 1 = a troll could do better and 5 = I proposed to the chef):

Service: 3
Food (quality/authenticity/appearance/temperature): 3
Menu (creativity, variety, ability to make mouth water): 3
Atmosphere: 5
Vegetarian friendly: 1
Overall value: 3

Price: For an appie and a main, about $30

Thursday, May 2, 2013

La Trona (Restaurant)

La Trona
former site of Eurasia, next to Jaleo
48th Street Bella Vista (west of Ave. Federico Boyd)

The only vegetarian options the day we went were: mushroom soup, mushroom ravioli, mushroom risotto, and mushroom tagliatelle.

Seriously.

Nuff said? I think so! Hilarious...and many restaurants in the city seem to be of the same opinion: vegetarians want to eat mushrooms...everywhere...every time they go out. I love mushrooms but geez, show some creativity! La Forchetta in Casco Viejo used to have a risotto with blue cheese, peas and asparagus that was inspired! 1985 in El Cangrejo has (had? it's been a while, but I doubt they've changed their menu, they never do!) a tomato risotto that's surprisingly light and refreshing. It doesn't always have to be mushroom (truffle, porcini, portabella) for the vegetarians. I'm getting so bored with what's out there and I know I'm not the only one.

Ok mushroom rant over. :)

That said, food was flavorful and well prepared.

We had one excellent server, the other two that helped serve/bus were a little unrefined/unpracticed. (Attention to serving water/wine, answering when spoken to, etc.) Hostess needs to learn to give a brief, polite answer rather than lingering. When we asked about the possibility of moving tables, she went on and on (and on and on). A simple "I"m so sorry but that table's taken...or that table's party will be here soon," would have sufficed. We were like: "for the fifth time, it's not a problem, we were only asking," and hoping she'd take the hint and leave us to enjoy our dinner. Really passive-aggressive.

The terrace is lovely, with whitewashed cast iron patio seats and a draped canopy above. No view unfortunately, looks on a back street.

Indoors, the decoration is masterful with a few important exceptions: the tables are way too close together and there's an odd narrow counter running down the middle, decorated with large candelabras that look like they were borrowed from the Addams family. Remove and respace the tables, I say! I loved the green velvet chairs and the murals, though.

We really appreciated the music, always at the perfect volume and always in keeping with the vibe, well done! Few places do this (lately Yacht Club is ALL over the place, from classic rock to Mexican rancheros [whatttttt?!] sigh...and yesterday I went to Crepes and Waffles and a punk song came on that someone in the kitchen was really into, because suddenly the volume was cranked and we were all treated to the melodious sounds of wannabe-Ramones with an identity crisis... whiner-grunge-punk-ska-calypso crap...and don't even get me started about New York Bagel, the musical schizophrenia is so bad I refuse to return...besides they always f--- up my order...), so what was I saying? Oh yeah:

Really, kudos to La Trona for recognizing the importance of music.

Will likely return.

The Panama Veggie bottom line (on a scale of 1-5, with 1 = a troll could do better and 5 = I proposed to the chef):

Service: 4
Food (quality/authenticity/appearance/temperature): 4
Menu (creativity, variety, ability to make mouth water): 2 (Oh yes I did!)
Atmosphere: 4
Vegetarian friendly: 2
Overall value: 3
Price: For an appie and a main, about $30

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mourning A Loss: Goodbye Peperoncini

A friend and I tried to get into a movie but the one we wanted to see (the new Les Miserables) was full. So we decided to get dinner instead...and treat ourselves to something nice. I hadn't been to Peperoncini in a while, and though the place is slightly overpriced, the decor and food are quite nice, so I suggested we go there. Imagine our surprise when we pulled up and found the old sign replaced with a new one reading Tres Scalini!

I have to digress here...in the interest of full disclosure, I've had the Tres Scalini brand of restaurants on a black list for over a decade now. I'd been to the other branches (I try to avoid them, but sometimes I get dragged there) and found the service to be inelegant and the food low quality. Call me crazy, but I believe any restaurant that serves mainly Italian food should use a good quality mozzarella. Tres Scalini uses...not a good mozzarella, not a decent one, not even a passable one...this chain uses the bottom of the line. Rubbery dried out curds that maybe...maybe...once saw the inside of a cow. I'm not sure.

So it was with trepidation that I got out of the car and asked when the change from Peperoncini had taken place (a month or so ago). Still, there were a lot of people there and the patio was beckoning, so we took a seat. It was about 9pm on a Friday. Our waitress was cute and friendly and she attended to us well. We ordered a $29 Luigi Bosca Malbec (tasty) and then shared a Napolitana salad, which was cubed tomatoes, plentiful sliced green and black olives, and "mozzarella" (sigh). We were talking and not in a hurry to order, and the waitress took her time coming back to see what we'd like for our mains. Fine by us as we were enjoying our wine.

Here's where a decent evening (gross mozzarella notwithstanding) turned sour. Another waiter (we soon learned he's the supervisor, yikes) butted in while our waitress was preparing to take our order to point to his watch and tell us to hurry and order because the kitchen was closing in 15 minutes. It was so rude...and uncalled for because we were right in the middle of ordering!

We told our waitress that we felt like leaving, because really, why spend another $15 to $20 bucks each if they're going to be all rude and rushy?

She was so sweet, though, and assured us that we had time to enjoy the rest of our wine and mains, so we went ahead and ordered. She is a credit to the place...the supervisor, who saw we were put off and didn't offer an apology...not so much. Strange because he is Colombian and, in Panama, Colombian waiters are considered to be excellent.

So get this, while we were waiting for our main course, the bar across the street started blaring dance music. I couldn't tell what they were playing...it could've been gangsta rap or David Guetta, the sound system was so bad you just couldn't tell. All you heard was the boom-boom-boom of the base being mangled by some really bad speakers. It was so loud that I could feel the vibration in my feet, all the way across the street! A taxi went by blaring Whitney Houston (I know, LOL) and the taxi's sound system was better than the bar's! Yo, here's a subwoofer, learn how to use it. And shame on you for being out-blasted by a cab. An over $40 dinner with that across the street? Even if the food had been excellent, I'd have crossed this place off my list.

The mains were a waste of money. Weighing in at a whopping $17 to $19 for some of the pasta and risotto dishes, this place is very expensive by Panamanian standards. I usually don't mind paying these prices when I'm in an expensive area like Casco Viejo or, in this case, Calle Uruguay, but I expect the food, service, and ambiance to be great.

My friend ordered the seafood risotto, which she pronounced "okay" (she ate very little) and my ricotta ravioli with mushrooms and cream was a gloppy, overpriced mess.

Here are two photos...and, because I'm in a Doctor Seuss kind of mood, I've dubbed them Yuck One and Yuck Two:

Yuck One...sloppily prepared packaged ravioli in a thick sauce.

Yuck Two...close-up of Yuck One. Sorry.
The ravioli "ricotta" filling was a little hard block inside a pasty wrapper.
Anyone who thinks this looks appetizing was not raised right!

The ravioli was definitely packaged, not fresh--and it wasn't one of those good quality pre-made ones you get at gourmet stores. The pasta had a stingy amount of fresh mushrooms...I counted about five slices. (What is that? Like two mushrooms?) I ate the mushrooms and left the pasta. The "ricotta" filling was a little hard block inside a pasty wrapper. The cream sauce was thick and gloppy. Yes, I just used the word gloppy again. GLOPPY. There's just no other word. Bottom line: I felt robbed.

We told our waitress we appreciated her, but that we would not be back. The only good things I can say about this experience: the waitress was nice, a real credit to Panamanians (didn't know how to open a bottle of wine or serve it, though, so the manager should help her with some training). I left my jacket on the back of my chair and another waiter kindly called after us to give it to me. And the valet guy was pleasant enough.

I still feel robbed though!

The Panama Veggie bottom line (on a scale of 1-5, with 1 = a troll could do better and 5 = I proposed to the chef):

Service: 3
Food (quality/authenticity/appearance/temperature): 2
Menu (creativity, variety, ability to make mouth water): 2
Atmosphere: 3
Vegetarian friendly: 3
Overall value: 1
Price: Dinner for 2 (1 bottle of wine, 1 appetizer, 2 mains): $85


Saturday, February 16, 2013

La Rana Dorada

We've had a lot of fun every time we've gone to la Rana Dorada...I've been there multiple times and most of all enjoy the pub-style decor and great music (whoever is playing "dj," keep up the good work, please!); lots of good rock, from classic to alternative (60s to 90s and everything in-between).

Everyone I've gone with has said the food is yummy...I am vegetarian and there isn't much I can eat, and there's nothing healthy on the menu (would it kill you to add a wedge salad?), but the garlic french fries are awesome and the mozzarella balls are surprisingly good...they come with two dipping sauces, a thin but tasty marinara and a mild honey mustard...the mozzarella bits are breaded and very tender (nice quality cheese).

It's usually easy to get served at the bar or table service, the wait staff is friendly and professional. And once I left my LAPTOP there and the head waitress kept it for me! I returned the next day and gave her a box of chocolate, I was so grateful if I'd had $100 I'd have given it to her!

Free samplers for any customer who wants them, now that's a good deal!


This is the perfect place for an after-work beer or to get a jump-start on the weekend (try it for before-dinner drinks!)...whether you sit outside or in the dark, cool interior, it's all good! The prices are extremely low for downtown Panama City (vodka tonics at around $3!) Best of all, they bring you a large, free sampler of their microbrews when you sit down! That's what I call a good deal!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Monster Food for Vegetarians


Yesterday my boozy book club got together for brunch. In honor of the absolutely fabulous Nora Ephron, who recently passed, we had read her book Heartburn (I plan to read Crazy Salad next). And we decided it would be fun to recreate some of her recipes and do a potluck style brunch, which is the very best way you can do a brunch. I read a hilarious blog post of hers in which she vilifies the poor egg-white omelet. As if he didn't have enough problems of his own, pasty white, flabby thing that he is, surrounded by iron-pumping, bicep-measuring fitness freaks.

But anyway, here's what Nora said:

"Every time I'm forced to watch them eat egg-white omelettes, I feel bad for them. In the first place, egg-white omelettes are tasteless. In the second place, the people who eat them think they are doing something virtuous...

You don't make an omelette by taking out the yolks. You make one by putting in additional yolks. A really great omelette has two whole eggs and and one extra yolk, and by the way, the same thing goes for scrambled eggs."

Well the other ladies in my book club were making complicated sounding things like brisket and key lime pie, so I decided we needed a nice eggy brunch dish to add to the table (which turned out to be embarrassingly laden with food. It was like a 3-day cruise buffet, though completely devoid of idiots in show-my-crack shorts asking "where da food at?")

Sorry...former crewmember humor.

But I digress.


I got a bit carried away with my recipe for the brunch, and what was supposed to be a big frittata with one extra yolk for every two whole eggs morphed into:

Monster Chilaquiles with Huevos Rancheros

The table started out looking like this...

...but as more and more people arrived, it started to fill!

That big pyrex would be the monster chilaquiles. The whole thing disappeared very quickly! We are good readers and even better eaters ;)

Chilaquiles: a common breakfast item in Mexico. They soak day-old tortilla chips in enchilada sauce and add a bit of cumbled cheese and crema, which really is very different from sour cream...it's buttery-er and creamier and the perfect consistency for drizzling over chilaquiles. Or enchiladas con mole. Or anything, really.

I think my monster dish was good because a few of the girls asked for leftovers and one asked me for the recipe. Here's what I wrote:

Monster Chilaquiles con Huevos Rancheros:

First, take a deep breath. You may need to give yourself a pep talk. Remind yourself that the best restaurants use butter and cream in proportions that are truly horrifying. And that Sundays are for sinning.

Ready? Ok, in a large pyrex or aluminum pan or baking dish or trough or whatever you have handy, layer the following:

layer 1: One bag tortilla chips. Pour a storebought red or green (I used red) enchilada sauce over them. Be generous. Almost drown them but not quite. Drizzle a bit of crema centroamericana (or slightly thinned sour cream) over the whole mess. So far so good.

layer 2: in a bowl, mix a can of good refried beans (I like black beans but any will do) with enough green tomatillo sauce to give a paste-like consistency (I like La Costeña's tomatillo sauce, I think all the supermarkets here in Panama City, Panama, carry it, check the chip aisle). If the beans are unsalted, add salt to taste. I used seasoned salt for extra oomph. Spoon over the chips. Try not to dwell on the word fried and remember, they’re beans…protein, fiber, good.

layer 3: scrambled eggs. Ok, don't freak out. You need a lot of eggs to fill a massive pyrex like the one I brought to my brunch party…and I had to make this recipe rich in honor of Nora. So, I coated my big frying pan with a Tbsp of Lurpak butter and a Tbsp of good olive oil. In a bowl, I mixed six free range eggs (plus five yolks) with a big dollop of crema de leche (cream), then poured into the hot pan. Then I added a bit of salt and pepper. Don't touch till the eggs start to firm up, than scrape the pan slowly to create big "curds" instead of those sad little crumbly bits you get at fondas (little stalls that serve big generous plates of Panamanian food). When the eggs are firm, add them in a buttery sunshine yellow layer over the beans. And imagine Nora, smiling down at you from foodie heaven.

layer 4 (add this layer when you are ready to serve) - homemade salsa: Chop 3-4 tomatoes, add some corn to make it pretty (I defrosted some good frozen corn), and finely chop whatever fresh green herbs you have on hand. I was out of cilantro so I used culantro (which is similar in taste and always in stock in Panamanian supermarkets) as well as some mint, and green onion or chives.

When you’re happy with the red-yellow-green ratio, add juice of one or two limes (I used two small limes) and crumbled up bits of any fresh curd cheese or queso fresco (I used salted Panamanian queso del pais, also known as queso prensado). I didn't add salt because all the other layers had a lot of salt. Don't use a storebought salsa, with all the richness underneath, this layer needs to be fresh :)

Serve at room temp, on a table laden full of key lime pies and cheesecakes and cheeses and fruit and tarts and brisket and salad and hash.

By the way, you can read Nora's post here: The Informational Cascade and the Egg-White Omelet

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