Panama, Casco Viejo
Casco Antiguo, San Felipe
Panama´s Fish Market rocks. It is at the very entrance of Casco Viejo, just off Avenida Balboa. A white and light blue building with the Japanese flag and the Panamanian flag on the top of the building (the new fish market installations where a donation of the Japanese government). As you approach, the characteristic smell of fresh fish will hit you: don´t get discouraged. Block your nose, get in and run for the stairs into their restaurant. Or, for those who actually enjoy the distinctive smell, you can wander around and buy whatever you want, as the restaurant will cook it for you. The largest, best meals I´ve had in Panama has been with groups of friends and tons and tons of food from the downstairs fisheries. It is amazing all the stuff that can come out of one beautiful piece!
If you choose to go straight for the stairs, your menu options are very good as well. This particular restaurant has peruvian style food and they are proud of it, as they have already won some awards from the Peruvian Embassy. We asked for a peruvian style lenguado ceviche (which is spicier than the normal one) and when the waiter brought it he said smiling: Who asked for the best ceviche in the world? I don´t know if it actually is, but is pretty good!
My other favorite there is the jalea. Fried dices of fish (they also do the jalea mixta which includes octopus and other seafood) surrounded with “pico de gallo” (chopped tomatoes, onions and herbs). They serve it with patacones (fried plantains) or yuca. The plate can serve for two or if you use it as entree everybody can take a bit. The picante sause (aji chombo) is really hot, use it carefully unless you are a professional.
Highly recommended: order your beer first. They have really cold beer, and you´ll love it. Order at least two rounds, as the one thing this place lacks is service speed. But if you are already into your second beer round, probably you won´t mind as much!
The fish market is one of the most authentic culinary experiences I know in Panama City. If you like fish, spice and authenticity… this is your next hangout!