The place was empty when we arrived but we eat early and it was a weeknight. We ate alone in the front, where there was some air conditioning. The back room has the old rock walls, and the old well. Nice looking place, but too hot for people unused to the dry dusty end of April in Panama. There were a few people in the back when we left, maybe locals who were better used to the heat.
I had a single malt whisky and was in a good mood. I was prepped for a good meal. We asked for water, and the waiter brought a choice of two bottles of water. The waiter had little English, and I gave in and accepted the bottle of water reluctantly. I really wanted tap water. The city water in Panama is good and tasty; no problems drinking it. Lesson learned: I need to learn the Spanish phrase for non bottled water. I don't think "tap water" translates.
The food looked better on the menu than in real life. I ordered a starter Salmon Carpaccio which was supposed to include some salad; my wife ordered a starter salad which was supposed to include grilled vegetables. The salmon portion was very small, thin cut, of course, for carpaccio but altogether perhaps only an ounce of salmon, with a very small amount of salad. About two mouthfuls of salad, maybe three if you're on the dainty side.
My wife's salad was cold (really cold, as if it had been stored in the refrigerator) and indifferently dressed. The grilled vegetables were small in size and number, cold and very limp. We all know how appealing a grilled red pepper can be; that was what I imagined. Not so; the peppers and unknown vegetables were small pieces, looked like they were from a jar and were vastly overcooked, or limp from being leftovers from days before. All in all, her salad was a big disappointment.
The two main dishes were a chicken with orange sauce and a lamb ragu. The chicken was good, and the mashed potatoes that came with it were tasty. The lamb ragu (or ragout) is a matter of some controversy.
First, the meat. I expected to see a ragout:
"a highly seasoned dish of meat cut into small pieces and stewed with vegetables."
But in retrospect I believe the menu actually said "ragu"...which is not Italian for ragout, I now know, and is something else entirely:
"ragu is a meat sauce that is typically served with pasta."
Admittedly this is not the restaurant's fault, but rather our ignorance. The lamb ragu she was served was a dish of flat, wide noodles with a very thin sauce with ground meat on it. The sauce was so thin I couldn't tell you what it tasted like. It was almost invisible. It did not taste like a tomato sauce, and was not colored like tomato.
But my biggest problem was the meat itself. It was ground lamb, and had a very grainy texture, as if it had been extended with some kind of a filler, or was some radically poor quality. My wife was disappointed with the lamb not being in chunks (she was expecting ragout, not ragu), but said she didn't notice the texture issue. I tasted it twice that night, and once on the leftover the next day, and each time it tasted oddly grainy to me. Note to restaurant: people who order lamb expect to have tasty lamb to ear, not grainy ground unidentified meat.
Looking over other reviews, I think this might be a place to order the pizza or pasta and be content. I wish someone had given me that advice
The bathroom is practically a tourist attraction. There is one unisex bathroom, which doesn't lock. There are no urinals. There is a common sink (more like a trough) for washing, and two stalls. One stall has a picture of a Marilyn Monroe type on the door, and the other stall has a picture of guys standing around. When I say a picture, I don't mean a fine piece of art. More like a printout off the internet.
A couple days after getting home, I logged in online to my bank account, tied to my debit card,for something else, and to glance at my charges for Panama. I found two different charges from this restaurant, on two different dates, for the same amount. Clearly a duplicate charge for the same meal, especially as we had left the next day. Hopefully, the bank will straighten it out.
So, uninteresting vegetables, ice cold salads, small portions, questionable lamb, and sloppy money handling practices. I think that about covers it.
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