Living the veggie life in Panama
A meat-loving friend has included testing the veggie lifestyle for a month or two into his list of New Year’s resolutions in order to st...
A meat-loving friend has included testing the veggie lifestyle for a month or two into his list of New Year’s resolutions in order to start the year off with a healthier lifestyle. To his benefit, he is currently living in New York, where the array of vegetarian restaurants and veggie options will surely help him in his newly acquired endeavor.
But what about us, the less fortunate ones, living in a country not used to even carrying a “vegetarian dishes” column in its menus?
Well, fret not. Here are a list of restaurants I’ve recently visited that offer some good veggie options. Although hidden somewhere between the steaks and seafood on the main menu, these dishes definitely don’t fall shy of showing how tasteful veggie cuisine can be.
Whether you’ve eschewed eating meat for good, or are en veggie route to shed extra holiday pounds away, check out one of these restaurants in Panama City.
DARNA in Balboa Avenue. With its red, cushioned chairs and the tropical décor, the all-Kosher restaurant offers a varied menu sure to please many. To start off, the restaurant does not serve any meat, chicken, or crustaceans. Only kosher seafood. To make up for it, they have filled the menu with home-made sauces, fresh vegetables, and everything from Middle Eastern, Italian, to Thai influences in its cooking.
Among its veggie options, Darna has an array of freshly baked focaccia bread, my favorite being the focaccia with tomato, garlic and mozzarella. The grilled vegetables are also a total pleaser, with eggplants, zucchini, sweet potatoes and carrots served with a satziki side that complements them to perfection. The mushrooms stuffed with feta cheese and the eggplant coated with satziki are also good appetizer options, surely to help satisfy you before you take a look at the entrees.
As if this wasn’t enough, Darna offers unique and delicious salads and pasta dishes. My favorite salad is the Mediterranean salad. With its lettuce, tomato, onions, zatar (Middle Eastern spice mix), and labne (yoghurt) dressing, you can’t go wrong. As for pasta dishes, choose from a gnocchi with exquisite tomato and cream sauce or cheese raviolis al olio with tomato and garlic.
On a recent trip, a vegetarian friend in the mood for Thai food even ordered the Thai-style fish with the fish aside and had only the noodles, claiming it was so good she could not conceive it wasn’t advertised in and of itself. Leave the fish for non-vegetarians in your party.
Darna is located at Bay Mall Plaza on Balboa Ave, right next to the Extreme Planet movie theater complex. Note that they close on Fridays at 3:30 p.m. and open back on Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. in honor of Sabbath. Info. 302-2989.
Beirut: Mediterranean cuisine provides good options for vegetarians, with a lot of chickpeas and eggplants cooked into their dishes. At Beirut , in front of the Banking sector’s Marriott, choose from hummus (made of chickpeas), baba ghanoush (made of eggplants), falafels (alone or in a sandwich), salad favorites such as taboule or fettoush, or their savory fatayers (like pizzas but without the tomato sauce).
Beirut also offers a selection of Indian vegetarian options if nothing of the above suits you, as well as Italian dishes.
1985 offers two complete pages of vegetarian delicacies ranging from a Roquefort salad, loaded with greens, apples, nuts and Roquefort cheese, through a range of pasta dishes to an Eggplant Cordon Bleu, thinly sliced sautéed eggplants stuffed with cheese. Other dishes worth a try include the racquelette (cheese cooked on a special grill and boiled potatoes) and cheese fondue.
If it’s an all-out vegetarian restaurant you’re looking for, however, your best bet is to head to La Novena , on Via Argentina, where the food is cooked in an open kitchen in full view of the diners. Although the menu is not large, the food is well-prepared and affordable.
The menu includes a wide range of fresh soups, stuffed peppers, spinach croquettes with a delicious dip, and vegetarian Italian dishes, from which the lasagna stands out. Get the full vegetarian experience by accompanying your meal with one of their freshly made natural fruit juices, seeing as no sodas or alcohol is served in the restaurant.
You certainly don’t have to be a tree hugger to enjoy any of the delicacies offered in the above restaurants. Good taste buds will suffice.