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Peperoncini Di Mare

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Written by Matt   
Friday, 25 January 2008 07:14
Just as boutique hotels are making their way into Panama's travel scene, case boutique restaurants like Peperoncini Di Mare in Area Bancaria are establishing themselves as appealingly sophisticated alternatives to once-popular chain franchises.
On a lazy Sunday evening, the Peperoncini seafood joint that's now been delivering innovative cuisine to Panama City residents for about 18 months was finally mine to tear apart.

Inside of Peperoncini Di Mare, it's hard not to notice the bold artwork that dons the walls. From widescreen Cartooch paintings of barracudas to jellyfish-looking lanterns, the theme is overwhelmingly Di Mare or, I'm assuming, Of the Sea. Pay close attention to the details like freestanding bag hangers beside tables and an infinity sink in the bathroom. Everything appears to be intricately put together by hand: the calculated imperfections, a welcomed reprieve from the otherwise sterile dining rooms of Panama City. 

The tuna appetizer arrived almost like an artists palate with a neon orange glaze drizzled over the ruby red interior of the fish. A small mound of lettuce and some crispy wontons sat alongside what would eventually become my favorite dish of the night.

We also enjoyed the eggplant starter in addition to an imaginative take on the traditional ceviche. Peperoncini's interpretation saw fresh sole as the centerpiece (a fish I don't think I've had as ceviche prior), doused in a spicy lemon cure with wide hunks of boiled yams and some of the crunchiest corn kernels this side of the Canal. This ceviche rivals that of Machu Pichu (in El Cangrejo) as the best in the City. 

As entrees, be sure to try the halibut which comes with a sweet and tangy maracuya (passion fruit) glaze. It's served atop six baby potatoes which looked like jemstones. The sesame-encrusted tuna was also perfectly seasoned and plated with some basic stir-fry vegetables. All the fish was terrifically fresh and prepared flawlessly.

An extensive list of cocktails are mixed from behind an inventive bar area, atop of which dangle wrought-iron-looking fish sculptures posing as lamps. And going along with the imaginative theme, they have a full bar which uses a large lazy suzan used to deliver drinks to patrons. Check out the handmade shelving units behind the bar as well as the ornate mosaics as accent lines.

The service is first rate and the waiters are well versed on the menus which can be a real issue in Panama. I remember once asking the waiter which was better, the sea bass or the filet, and his response was something like, "whichever you feel like". Whether you have allergies or are just looking for a recommendation, a brainless waiter is about as useless as a flat tire. But luckily, you won't find any of those here. The Peperoncini wait staff was on their toes: right there when you need em, out of sight when you don't.

Overall, Peperoncini Di Mare was a wonderfully pleasant surprise. It can be easy to miss if you don't know what you're looking for but once you've arrived, the food and the artwork is in-your-face impressive. If you've read my review of Casa de Mariscos (essentially the neighboring restaurant), I'd say this is the obvious winner. Try the dishes I had or venture off on your own: everything at this place seems like a safe bet.
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Last Updated on Monday, 11 August 2008 23:49
 
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