Thursday, November 12, 2009

Although Copa Airlines had provided us with a “meal” that consisted of a hot pocket (seriously, ham and cheese) and two small cookies we chose to grab a quick meal in our hotel’s restaurant when we arrived in Panama Friday night. We didn’t venture into any Panamanian cuisine that night as the hot pocket did at least fill us up enough to not want the buffet. We did, however, dive right into some Panamanian beer. We tried Atlas, Panama and Balboa and I have to say they weren’t great. I’m not a huge lager fan anyway but even Julie didn’t care for them.

Saturday we were treated to probably the most authentic Panamanian meal possible…cooked over an open fire by a lovely Embera girl, Sara, we enjoyed what I will venture to say is the best fried fish I’ve ever had with some delicious fried plantains all served neatly in a banana leaf. The fish, a peacock bass, had been caught that morning by one of the men from the river and the plantains grown in their garden.

Back from the jungle we took the recommendation from our tour guide and dined at a local favorite; El Trapiche. Ceviche is wildly popular in Panama and we started with a mixed ceviche that had fish, octopus and shrimp. With such hot and humid temperatures you can easily see why the Panamanians love it so much-what could be better than fresh chilled seafood infused with that cooling citrus deliciousness?

Our restaurant offered two dishes with an assortment of Panamanian fare; one an appetizer and one a meal and we ordered one of both. The appetizer was of the fried variety and had some good, some okay and some bland offerings.

Julie ordered the platter and found herself with some repeats of from the appetizer. It started with a wonderful soup that reminded me of pot-licker. For those non-southerners, that’s the broth from making collard greens- if you’re ever in Atlanta you must go to Mary Mac’s Tea Room and get some! Her dish also came with some bbq style beef and pork which was really nice.

I ordered the Corvina (sea bass) with a shrimp sauce. It was pretty good but I think the sauce was a bit heavy for the light flavor of the fish.

All in all Panamanian cuisine was to our liking. Bordering two oceans makes it a seafood lover’s paradise and although they could work on their breweries they serve a mean sangria.