We were debating between this restaurant and a similar one further away, but the looming rain clouds helped make our decision because of its proximity to our hotel (Tantalo - don't go if you value sleep).
We read reviews in our travel book but upon looking at TripAdvisor reviews our decision was easy... And we certainly were not disappointed!
The prices were not to be beat; their menu advertises $22 for a "6-course" meal or even less for the lunch option. Our six courses was more like 8, and one was a full entree. More about that later. We also had a bottle of Chilean red, also $22. The server was running off his feet all night despite there only being 4-5 tables; 5 tables x 8 courses = A LOT of work!
I have to say the home style food reminded me so much if my grandmother's cooking. It was rich with flavour and different textures; an epicurean treat!
Our six courses were:
1) Salad with a vinegar and lemon dressing. Very flavourful and light.
2) Tortilla - a frittata-esque pie slice full of potatoe, peppers and green onion. It melted in our mouths.
3) Spring roll & hot ginger sauce. This was tasty but was a little different then our North American style. I think maybe the wrap was made with plantain as it was super crunchy and sweet.
4) Ropa vieja - literally translates to "Old clothes.". Ropa Veija was explained to me as a soup made with whatever was in the kitchen, but in this case I think it might have been a case of using plaintain or pork, prepared the day before for a different use, and re-purposed for this saviury dish; A baked plantain cup overflowing with pulled pork in a kind of subtle barbecue sauce. Nom nom nom.
5) Octopus skewer - It had 2-3 morsels of octopus in addition to lots of veggies and flavour.
6) Tamale - Open-faced tamale was full of chicken, salsa and what was perhaps a yucca, carrot purée. Delicious.
7) Dirty rice - rice mixed with veggies. This course also contained a small piece of breaded fish, a small lemon-style chicken breast & pork smothered in a barbecue-style sauce. By this point we were stuffed and could not eat the entire serving despite its mouth-watering flavours.
8) Finally, a small brownie with almond slivers on top. Absolutely decadent.
We rolled out of Rene's. it was our last night in Panama and I have to say our trip ended on a very high note because of it.
The only downsides were the heat as the air-conditioning seemed to have a mind of its own swinging from warmer than outdoors to ice cold. Also our server, understandably because of all his running around, wasn't so attentive to our water glasses it required a few reminders during our first couple of courses but he caught on after round 3-4. We gave him a very healthy tip for all his great work.
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