If your thing is loud, touristy eateries with over-the-top noise and under-the-expectation food, Manolo Caracol is the place to go in Panama City, Panama. Located in the Casco Viejo (old city) in an area under intensive renovation, it can be found by following tourist busses, which swarm it. At least on the Saturday night we were there.
The eatery’s hook is a prix fixe menu that changes according to available ingredients and the whims of the chef. The restaurant is simply decorated and there is no menu, only a wine list on what appears to be a metal paddle. We had 8 courses, including dessert, only two of which were above substandard.
I have usually found that high levels of noise in restaurants are ameliorated by alcohol, but the rock concert level of sonic violence defeated our wine and we were reduced to shouting at each other to converse. Manolo Carcol should be renamed Cacophony. This was primarily from three large bus filled tables that turned out to be from our hotel.
The service was humorless, inattentive and occasionally surly. We were into our fourth course and fifth or sixth request before the wait staff deigned to bring us bread.
When we asked they call us a taxi, we were brusquely directed to the square (Plaza Balboa) where we had no trouble acquiring one.
Our treatment by the wait staff was diametrically opposed to all of the other interactions we have had in this rapidly developing country. Although our Spanish is limited we have enjoyed the Panamanians, who are easily some of the kindest and friendliest people we have met in our travels.
Perhaps the Manolo Carcolians have studied service, although not cuisine, at the Sorbonne.
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