Panama City has a large population of Peruvians, which also means many Peruvian restaurants. Our hotel staff at Toscanna Inn recommended several restaurants within walking distance and we ended up at Fina Estampa because it was the closest. The restaurant was dimly lit with a large dining room. Most of the staff spoke English quite well. We had the option of an English or Spanish menu, and since I wanted to practice what little Spanish I knew, we opted for the Spanish version. The menu consisted of a wide variety ranging from seafood to steaks and chicken. Since we were in Panama City and so close to the ocean, we decided to go with all seafood dishes.
White sangria 1/2 pitcher
This white sangria was the best I have ever tasted. I couldn't get the waiter to share the recipe and I don't blame him. To me, it was the perfect white sangria: slightly sweet, fruity and no taste of alcohol, which made it very dangerous. Good thing we only ordered half a pitcher.
Ceviche de corvina
This classic ceviche was made with fresh seafood of the day marinated in lime juice, red onions, and cilantro. The dish was served with chilled corn on the cob and yam. The seafood was firm, fresh and tender and the flavor of the ceviche were spot on in terms of balance of spice and acidity.
Our waiter gave us the option of choosing shrimp or chicken skewers and we decided to go for shrimp to stick with our seafood themed meal. The shrimp was over cooked and I didn't like the preparation and heavy crust that was used. However, the potatoes made up for the poorly executed shrimp. These perfectly fried pieces of potato were coated in a cayenne pepper mixture and topped with the most addicting sauce. I have been on the hunt for something similar in Los Angeles with no luck.
Corvina a lo macho
This dish consisted of a mix of fresh seafood topped with a jumbo shrimp cooked in a tomato sauce. The seafood included tiny shrimp, squid and mussels. The tomato sauce was very mild to our surprise and could have used a little bit of heat. We quickly realized that Panamanians in Panama City are not as into spicy food.
Penne frutti mar
The seafood pasta was the most disappointing dish of the night. The penne was grossly overcooked, but the saving grace was the well cooked seafood and complimentary tomato sauce. This dish taught me to stay away from pasta dishes while in Panama.
For our first meal in Panama, this was a nice introduction, albeit on the pricer side.
Calle Eusebio A. Morales
El Cangrejo, Panama City, Panama