The past few months have been filled with so many new experiences and culinary adventures. One of the highlights was being whisked away to Panama on a magic carpet ride. Well not really magic carpet but I did get a taste of first class life. That experience within itself was like tasting brand name Oreo’s after a lifetime of O’s. Anyway, Panama is a tropical urban oasis that is hot, hot, hot! The first thing I noticed upon stepping off the plane is the thick moisture in the air, like stepping into the bathroom after my sister has taken a shower. The second thing I noticed was a Chefleen sign waiting in the airport!
We were off to Le Meridien hotel where I was instructed that I needed to hurry up and change. I kind of rolled my eyes like isn’t this vacation? Nonetheless I quickly pulled my less than glamorous airplane self together. After a short Uber ride we arrived in this weird back lot alley place. Needless to say I was somewhat weary. Yet upon entering the restaurant I was pleasantly surprised. Greeted by a bottle of wine, modern décor, and sleek interior, another Chefleen sign put me in a great mood! It was only then I learned we were at the number one rated dinner restaurant in the city.
Azahar is an upscale Venezuelan restaurant chain that focuses on fusion food. Dinner was delicious, most notably this black rice risotto that accompanied my salmon. All the proteins were cooked to perfection. It was late so it wasn’t too crowded but much like the décor the people too were sleek and modern, I felt like a cool kid being surrounded by them. Dessert was beautiful but because of my gluten specifications it was not so delicious gelatin.The passion fruit sauce was the star of the plate, an amazing ending to an awesome meal.
The next day we traveled about ten minutes, or twenty because our Uber driver insisted on showing us some mountain, to the fish market. This is a bustling open-air market with seafood aplenty. Here you truly feel like you are a part of the people. It is heavily concentrated with men, which made me feel like this is where all the men must come to hang out away from their wives.
The fish market is a bit overwhelming, so many choices and salespeople trying to draw you into their hut, which of course has the best and freshest fish. We settled on one further down after reviewing all our options. I had black conch ceviche and my partner had less adventurous shrimp. The flavor of both was bright.The acidity hit my tongue in just the right way, but the conch was a little hard to swallow because of texture. We washed them down with Panama beer, which I found to be light and refreshing. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience but I dealt with the consequences of gluten and yeast in my body later that night.
The rest of the day we walked along the water into old town. The buildings are beautiful I felt like I stepped back into time.I ate a street ice, which is an amazing combination of shaved ice, flavored sugar syrup, and condensed milk. Surprisingly refreshing despite the overload of sugar.
After seeing the canal from a viewpoint, we stumbled upon Finca del Mar, a bar that had swinging chairs instead of barstools. We sat here for happy hour, enjoying the breeze and swinging in each other’s company.
Tantalo is where we ended our day with macaroni and cheese, which was out of this world, ( yes, gluten filled) and a meat platter. We devoured the food on the roof while watching the sunset and sipping mojitos. We got there early enough that we managed to snag a chair over looking the entire town. It’s definitely a hotspot, when we came back later in the night it was almost too crowded to move.
Walking around in the heat eating our way through the city took a toll on our bodies. I had overloaded my body with all sorts of things I shouldn’t eat in the name of travel and I paid the cost with a tummy ache. The next day we stayed closer to the hotel, relaxed and ate some more. Sundays are very chill in Panama, a lot of things are closed. We went to the mall near the Hard Rock Hotel for breakfast, or a burger.For dinner we just told the Uber driver to take us where she would go. We ended up at Jimmy. It was good, the shrimp on my partner’s plate were the best. So good there is no photo evidence.
The upside of things being closed on Sunday is the main street shuts down in the early morning so you can stroll along the water. We walked to this tourist sign, which made for a perfect photo location. You know because vacation doesn’t count unless you photo yourself there.
Panama is truly a beautiful booming metropolitan area and I can’t wait to have more time to explore it further. What made the trip even better was that I didn’t have to plan much, so thank you to my boyfriend who checked off all the details and catered the trip to my always-hungry belly.