My first visit to the Panama Dining Room about two years ago left me with the impression of great atmosphere and uneven food. Everyone else loved their meals, but my vegetarian papardelle was dry and salty. I could have sent it back, but it was a friend’s birthday celebration and I didn’t want to seem churlish.
The reason I went back was because of the fabulous setting with it’s huge arched windows and great atmosphere- and the fact that everyone else had enjoyed their meals. I’m so glad I gave it another go. This time there were more vegetarian options and because the entrees sounded so enticing, we decided to go for a combination of these. Our waitress was lovely and very helpful, although she did go awol after we were seated and before we got our menus- you’d think that menus straight up would be too obvious to mention, but it happens much more often than it should.
Given I’m a vegacquarian, I am permitted to eat fish so we had the salt cod and potato croquettes with saffron aioli, which were delicious ($10 for three), asparagus with chopped boiled egg and caper berries – the asparagus was tender and sweet and caper-egg mixture a nice accompaniment ($14). The most delicious was the baby beet tart with French sheep’s cheese, ($14) the pastry was crispy and the base had a kind of caramelised base on which the baby beets sat and all were topped with baby endive. The side dish of warm baby potato salad with creme fraiche and chive dressing ($8) was nice without being overly interesting- I think it’s better to leave the skin on potatoes as it provides more flavour. We also ordered a side of broccoli with chilli, garlic and capers, as the special of stuffed zucchini flowers had some sort of kitchen malfunction and wasn’t available. These five dishes were almost filling enough for two, but we had enough room for dessert- pistachio cake, lemon curd ice cream and a mandarin tuile ($14.50). We were going to share, but the helpful waitress let us know that the size of the pistachio cake was about the size of a friand, so we had one each- which was advisable so there was no fighting. The lemon curd ice cream was a knockout & worked well with the pistachio. The only negative was a mandarin coulis, which was a little bitter.
Price for two, with two drinks: $110, so probably not for everyday dining.