One of the best things about Panama, is that there’s something for everyone. This is reflected in Panama’s landscapes, neighborhoods, and even the food. When dining out, there are countless options for both Panamanian fare and international cuisines. While we love grabbing a quick bite from the seafood market or neighborhood cafe, some occasions require a slightly more elevated setting. Where should you go for those times when you’re in the need of a really special fine dining experience? Whether it’s a romantic date, special celebration, or business lunch, Panama has plenty of options to choose from.
More than just a meal, dining at Dónde José is an experience. One of the top restaurants in Panama City, Dónde José serves a nightly fixed menu with optional wine pairings. The impeccably decorated dining room is tiny, with only a handful of tables, and the restaurant offers two seatings per night, at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm. So why all the fuss?
The menu includes a rotating array of beautifully prepared and innovative dishes like razor clams and panko “sand” or unexpected combinations like scallops with cashew sauce. Apart from a menu you’ll never find anywhere else, Chef José narrates the the story of Panama through his cuisine. Local ingredients, family recipes, and Panamanian anecdotes all add a unique flare to this culinary experience.
The price tag for this dining extravaganza is not for the faint of heart. At around $80 per person and an additional $75 if you add the wine pairings, this is one of the more expensive meals in the city. But ask anyone who’s been, and they’ll tell you it’s well worth it.
Chances are, you’ll be blown away by Makoto before you even see the menu. For one, the hospitality and service are fit for royalty. Secondly, the view. Makoto is situated in a charming garden on an 11th floor rooftop. The restaurant’s interior is beautifully curated, and the setting can’t be beat. Except maybe, by the food.
Makoto’s highly-skilled sushi chefs whip up breathtaking dishes that put Panama’s local fresh seafood on display. Even for the sushi-averse, there is plenty to savor at Makoto. Shrimp tempura, crispy brussel sprouts, and pan seared dumplings all outdo their counterparts at every other Japanese restaurant in the city by leaps and bounds. Finish your meal with an extra glass of wine or Japanese tea to savor the view long after you’ve finished eating.
Salvaje serves up gourmet Japanese cuisine with a twist. Far from your typical salmon avocado or spicy tuna rolls, Salvaje’s menu welcomes adventurous palates. Try the cobia sashimi for fish so tender it will melt in your mouth. Don’t miss the mushroom and wagyu dumplings, grilled avocado, or cauliflower tempura.
Your best bet is to make a reservation for a group and try as much of the menu as you can. When you can’t eat another bite, head upstairs to the rooftop bar and take in the panoramic view of Panama City while indulging in one of Salvaje’s unique cocktail creations. Cheers!
Locals have been raving about Maito, located in Coco del Mar, for a while, and the world finally caught on. This year, Maito made the list of Latin America’s 50 best restaurants. Chef Castrellón shaped his fun and flavorful menu around a familiar concept: Panama. By exploring the different cuisines that make up the Panama’s own (Caribbean, Indigenous, Asian, Creole, American, etc.), Chef Castrellón takes diners on a culinary adventure.
Not sure what to order? Go for the tasting menu to get a bit of everything. Sancocho stew, slow-roasted pork, and rice in squid ink are a few of the delicacies you can expect to encounter. Don’t let the laid back dining room fool you, though. This is fine dining with prices to match. At $75 for the pre-fixe menu, this is a meal to be savored.
Chin Chin offers chinese fusion food in a gorgeous setting. The refined modern decor with light wood and touches of pink has been meticulously curated and the result is breathtaking. Even the glassware and cutlery has been carefully chosen to fit the decor. The attention to detail doesn’t stop with the design, though.
The food offers elegant and modernized takes on Chinese and Asian classics. Sizzling shrimp, peking duck, and tom kha gai soup are all worth ordering. Not sure what else to get? Ask your waiter. The waitstaff are all incredibly attentive and knowledgeable about the menu and never fail in their recommendations.
Dining at Azahar feels like something out of a dream. Neglecting a typical entryway, you enter this stunning restaurant through a quaint flower shop. Once inside you’ll immediately feel at ease in the stylishly minimal dining room. If you choose to sit outside, you also have access to a nice view of the city.
Once you’ve made yourself comfortable, it’s time to turn your attention to the menu. There are no shortage of creative and expertly prepared Asian fusion dishes to choose from. The lobster soup and wagyu beef both come highly recommended. And no trip to Azahar would be complete without trying their incredibly fresh sushi as well. Pair your meal with a special bottle of wine or custom cocktail and we promise you won’t be disappointed.
This fun and funky gem in Casco Viejo is filled with personality you just can’t miss. The eclectic and tropical decor is at once modern and antiquated with plenty to settle your gaze on. Don’t spend too long taking it all in, though, because before you know it, it will be time to order.
This inventive menu requires plenty of tough decisions. The ceviche is often called one of the best in Panama and is not to be skipped. Whatever fish is fresh and local is always a good call. And for dessert, don’t miss the corn pudding. Feeling indecisive? They also offer a tasting menu so you can try a little bit of everything. Just don’t expect to come back next month and order the same thing again. The menu rotates to take advantage of what’s fresh and local making every visit a new and exciting treat.
Capital Bistro is the perfect example of old world meets new world. Even the decor feels both stately and modern at once with low lighting and dark wood paired with sleek chairs and modern booths. The service is attentive and cordial and your waiter will be your best friend when it comes to navigating the menu of modern takes on classic Central American dishes.
Local favorites include the ceviche, grilled calamari, and mushroom ravioli. If you’re with a group, it’s definitely worth ordering several appetizers to share. After dinner, take a minute to enjoy the unobstructed view of Panama City’s skyline. It’s a perfect end to a perfect meal.
If you’re craving a delectable Italian dining experience in Panama City, La Posta can’t be beat. Everything here from the service to the ambiance to the food will have you feeling like the guest of honor. Patrons are typically welcomed with a glass of chilled Prosecco on the house.
Let this and the fresh baked bread be the perfect accompaniments as you peruse the menu of Italian classics with an emphasis on seafood. Don’t skip the Burrata with Prosciutto, seafood soup, and freshmade pastas. A look around the crowded dining room will show you lots of locals and regular customers who just can’t get enough of the hearty portions of delectable food and a great environment.
If your idea of fine dining is synonymous with relaxation, then Cabana is the perfect place for you. This gorgeously designed restaurant is the perfect combination of chic, dignified, and comfortable. White tablecloths and perfectly attentive waiters give Cabana a elegant feel, while the light and airy dining room lends a touch of ease. Pasta dishes, salads, and seafood are all guaranteed to please. If you can, plan your meal close to sunset to take in the remarkable view over the bay with a glass of crisp wine in hand. We can’t think of a better way to spend an evening.
So there you have it, 10 of the top fine dining restaurants in Panama. They might not be the place of everyday dinners, but when you’re ready to splurge on a special occasion, make sure you choose one of our favorites from this list. Your tastebuds will thank you!