Sunday, March 2, 2008

Boquete Restaurants

JoAnne and Ricco in front of his restaurant, the best based on food, service and price

There still are abundant restaurants that can be dubbed "local" in Boquete, although their numbers are diminishing. However, we decided to dine at the restaurants frequented by ex-pats and visitors. We had agreed to have one large meal a day, so we embarked on having at least one meal at almost every "upscale" restaurant in the center of the town.

At the center is Boquete Bistro. It is owned by an ex-pat from Aspen, CO who took over a former gathering place for locals. Lauretta Bonfiglio has decorated her place with her own abstract oil paintings that are pleasing to the eye.

Since Murray is alergic to shrimp, he had to stick with meat or poultry. He concentrated on the filet mignon. The dish is served with one of several sauces. His favorite was the carmelized onions with a mushroom sauce taking second place.

While the steak is advertized as tender, it was stringy and hard to cut. It was difficult explaining to the waiter how he wanted the steak cooked - he likes it medium-rare. The waiter took this to mean 'medio' which is one step removed from 'moo.' His second go round, the steer was even in more pain and the beef was returned for more cooking. When the platter returned, it was obvious that the meat had been nuked - not a pleasant thing to do to a steak.

On the third try, a friend suggested that Murray tell the waiter 'tres quartros.' This suggestion proved correct as the meat was just a warm pink and sliced appropriately.

Service, was appropriate. Bistro does have one beer that none of the others has - Panamanian brewed "Warsteiner."

There are two restaurants offering 'Peruvian' fair. The first, Delicias del Peru, has an excellent outdoor section overlooking a hillside and a garden. The service was slow - we had to find a waiter. The food was heavily salted. Because salt affects Murray's blood pressure and poor service adds to it, we did not return.

The second, Machu Picchu is excellent. The setting is formal-cloth table cloths and linen napkins. Murray's first dish - repeated on the second trip - was a steak cordon-bleu. Joanne fell in love with the cordon-bleu. To compare with Bistro, Murray had the filet mignon with mushroom gravy. Both meat dishes were prepared just right and served elegantly.

On our first and second stop we ordered slices of lemon pie. The taste reminded both of us of excellent key lime pie. On our third outing, the pie was bland and the crust partially burned. We did not try a fourth time, but friends of ours did and offered a taste - it was again bland
with a burnt crust.

On each of our first four forays, service was excellent. On the fifth we had to ask for bread, and when it came it was well below the quality of the first four times. Service was slow or non existant on the last time. Apparently we had a trainee who was concerned with serving the single male at the table behind us who arrived after us and was served before us.

We took one meal at Roxanne's. The food was good, but we sat (our fault) at a table next to a window where the sun created an uncomfortable climate, and we could not open the window that overlooked a creek because between the window and a screen were six flies.

Across from Roxanne's is a Mexican restaurant. JoAnne was "OK" with her vegetarian buritos. Murray found his cimichanga the best he had ever had.

The best of the restaurants is new and run by an ex-pat from Key West. "Papa Ricco" has consistently excellent Italian food. His lasagna is mouth watering as was a mahi-mahi and chicken parmigana. JoAnne loved the spaghetti with meat balls and our neighbors took home a large Sicilian style pizza that the family enjoyed.

But, frankly, no one makes a breaded eggplant rolatini like Ricco. Service is excellent as is the running commentary by the owner, a refugee from Brooklyn. The only desert, ocassionally available, is caneloni- well made, but we've had better. Also Hobson's choice of Atlas Beer (probably the worst of the Panamanian beers) was finally improved upon on our last visit.

All meals were reasonable by American Standards ranging from $6 pp at Ricco's to $12.50 for the steak at Bistro.

Comparative Rating
Bistro Boquete *
Delicias del Peru *
Machu Picchu ***
Papa Ricco's ***

Preliminary Rating
Roxanne's **
Mexican ***

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