Tuesday, March 11, 2008

El Valle Hotel Restaurant Reviews

Although I've lived in El Valle de Antón, Panama, for almost two years now, I've never dined at some of the hotel restaurants here. After all, when was the last time you dined at your local Hilton Hotel?

I've eaten at Los Capitanes several times (mostly to my regret) because the Valleros ex-pat group holds functions there and I've had friends and family staying there.

I've had the well-regarded breakfast at the Anton Valley Hotel and it was quite good.

I often eat at El Rancho (formerly called Niña Delia), which is technically a hotel since it has several inexpensive rooms for rent, but is much better known as a restaurant.

But I've never been to the restaurants at La Casa de Lourdes, Rincon Valley Hotel, the Park Eden Hotel, or any of the various cabañas around town such as Cabañas Las Mozas.

Eventually I'll get around going to those, just so I can blog about them, but in the meantime I spotted these informal reviews on the "Restaurants in Panama" Yahoo discussion forum:

Dining at La Case de Lourdes

"bwh12b" posted this review of La Case de Lourdes, which is the highest-end hotel and restaurant in El Valle:

This past weekend I went to El Valle de Anton to try La Casa de Lourdes, which I'd only read about. Wow. La Casa de Lourdes is the restaurant for the hotel/spa Los Mandarinos (http://losmandarinos.com/), and it may be the prettiest place, architecturally speaking, that I've seen in all of Panama. I didn't stay at Los Mandarinos, because this was a last-minute trip and they were full -- so I can't comment on the rooms. (I stayed at Los Capitanes, which is a reliable alternative nearby.) But I did have dinner there. The food was superb, and reasonably priced; entrees range from $8-18. (I had the pork chop, 1.5" thick, with fig compote glaze; I think that was $13.) The owner/hostess, Lourdes, is charming and attentive to all. And the setting, well... even if they only served sancocho, it would be worth a visit. :-)

Clearly a very positive review. However, I must point out the experience of my friends Christina and Rudy, who went there for Chris' birthday. The meals, they said, were good, but when they received the check and presented their pensionado cards (a retirement visa that guarantees the bearer a special discount), Lourdes became angry and hostile and created a scene, accusing the "gringos" of taking advantage of Panamanians. This spoiled the whole experience for them, naturally.

"Vicki" also had a positive experience at La Casa de Lourdes, saying,

"We'll second this recommendation! We were there last year, our meals,
the setting and the service were fantastic."

"thebeachisgud" confirmed it with this comment:

LOVE this place. If you are staying overnight, request room 4A or 4B
(in the old part, on the top floor where you have a view and breeze,
and close to the spa).

The menu changes with the season. We're looking forward to the return
of the "winter" menu with the "to-die-for" cassoulet + warm mango
crumble (available in mango season). That being said, we were there
over Carnival and our selections off the special Carnival menu
(gourmet riffs on Panamanian classics) and the summer menu were
memorable and luscious, as always.

Dining at the Hotel Rincon Vallero

About the Hotel Rincon Vallero, Vicki wrote:
"We stayed at Hotel Rincon Vallero, which was lovely and the food was excellent in their restaurant. We had the Suite with a bedroom, living room and a fabulous bathroom...the shower is a waterfall. My mom in law was with us and this worked out well for us. She was ready to sleep on the fold out sofa bed but no.....they brought a real mattress to put on top of the lousy mattress for her comfort. Mind you, we didn't ask for it they just showed up with it right after check-in. We would go back there again."

Ok, so that wasn't specifically a restaurant review, though she did say the food was excellent. Anyone else dined at Rincon Valley? Care to share your experience?

Dining at the Crater Valley Resort

I myself have dined at the Crater Valle Resort, along with Laura and her mother Linda. We went over there on a weekday evening just to check it out. There were no other diners there and the hotel staff seemed surprised by our appearance, but they seated us and took our orders. We found the outdoor patio and pool, although quite lovely and scenic, to be too exposed to the wind and rain, so we asked to be moved to an indoor dining room and were accomodated.

I ordered the corvina. It turned out to be not quite fresh, though it was topped with a tropical fruit compote that was delicious. In general I would describe the restaurant as creative but disused. The food was decent, not outstanding. Prices were in the $10 to $15 range, too high for El Valle or for what was served.

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