One of the best things about Panama is that there’s something for everyone. You can see this in Panama’s landscapes, neighborhoods, and even food. When dining out, there are countless options for both Panamanian and international cuisines.
We love grabbing a quick bite from the seafood market or neighborhood cafe but sometimes you need a more elevated setting. Where should you go for those times when you’re in the need of a special fine dining experience? Whether it’s a romantic date, special celebration, or business lunch, Panama has plenty of options.
1. Dónde José
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 restaurant is small and 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. For example, razor clams and panko “sand” or combinations like scallops with cashew sauce. Apart from a menu, you’ll never find anywhere else, Chef José narrates the story of Panama through his cuisine. Local ingredients, family recipes, and Panamanian anecdotes all add a unique flair 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 extra $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.
via Instagram @makotopanama – – Avenida Samuel Lewis con calle 59, Obarrio, Plaza Piso 11
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 beaten. Except, maybe, by the food.
Makoto’s highly-skilled sushi chefs whip up breathtaking dishes. All that put Panama’s local fresh seafood on display. Even for the sushi-averse, there is plenty to savor at Makoto. Finish your meal with an extra glass of wine or Japanese tea to savor the view long after you’ve finished eating.
via Instagram @salvaje_panama – Avenida Eloy Alfaro con calle 11 – Casco Antiguo
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. There you can take in the panoramic view of Panama City while indulging in one of Salvaje’s unique cocktail creations. Cheers!
via Instagram @maitopanama – Final de la Calle 50, 4to Local a mano izquierda
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 Panama, 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. 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.
via Instagram @azaharpty – Av. Balboa, PH Yoo, Piso 7
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 stylish 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 is no shortage of creative and expert 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 incredible fresh sushi as well. Pair your meal with a special bottle of wine or custom cocktail and we promise you will not be disappointed.
6. Laboratorio Madrigal
Laboratorio Madrigal is a fun and funky gem in Casco Viejo and is full of personality. 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.
7. Capital Bistró Panama
Capital Bistro is the perfect example of the old world meets the new world in fine dining. 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 help you navigate 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.
8. La Posta
If you’re craving a delectable Italian fine dining experience in Panama City, La Posta can’t be beaten. 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 freshly made pasta. The dining room will show you lots of locals and regular customers who love the hearty portions 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 an elegant feel. While the light and airy dining room lend 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 from this list. Your tastebuds will thank you!