WOW! I can't begin to come up with the words to describe Manolo Caracol in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama. My husband and I both travel extensively domestically and internationally for business and pleasure. As a result, we eat out frequently...and, all too often, we find that the highly ranked restaurants only to prove to be disappointing or just plain ordinary. Not so with Manolo Caracol. I have to say that I have been wanting to write a review of this unbelievable place since we finished our dinner last Friday evening....So, here goes...
The restaurant is in the historic Casco Viejo neighborhood of Panama City. We happened to be staying in a lovely apartment on the same street, but you will find that this is a very transitional neighborhood which is very much on the starting end of the restoration. There are some beautifully restored buildings, but also many that are mere shells or in terrible disrepair. Nevertheless, this is a neighborhood that is developing and will, no doubt, only grow in popularity.
Manolo Caracol is unique in that it offers a price fixe menu with 12 courses at dinner. There were 5 in our group, including our 11 year old son. The food, the atmosphere and the experience were unforgettable. This is a place that I would put up against any restaurant in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc. And, The French Laundry should hope that Manolo doesn't decide to open a Napa location. The food changes daily based on what happens to be fresh and in season. Our dining experience (which took over 2 hours, but that is part of the deal) included shrimp ceviche, spinach empanadas, cool pumpkin soup (with something I would compare to a fritter although I couldn't understand from the waiter just what it was), a simple but delicious green salad, a sauteed salmon dish served with their signature squid ink risotto (perhaps one of the best things i have ever tasted---simply amazing), grilled lamb (I couldn't figure out the marinade--herbs, but not overpowering so as to kill the taste of the lamb), grilled pork with plantains in a passion fruit sauce (again, amazing) and for desert--fresh coconut ice cream and something that looked like a fig--It was not a fig and i couldn't understand the waiter on this one either, but take my word for it---fantastic.
The dinner was $35 per person not including wine and gratuity. An unbelievable bargain...I challenge anyone to find a meal of this caliber and at this price in any other major city...I live in Houston and we have nothing that even compares in terms of the overall experience. If you go to Panama City and do not try this restaurant, you are missing a real treat.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC