Tonight was my second time at La Valentina, an Italian-Spanish fusion restaurant in Panama City. The first time I ate there was 3:30 in the afternoon and my friends and I had entered and exited 3 different restaurants before stumbling on La Valentina. It was an oasis of flavor and civilization, as my wine was served in a proper wine glass. I was hungry, I was thirsty, and I was instantly in love!
My second visit was more deliberate. I went with a group of expats and the dinner had been planned for weeks. I was thrilled to go back and explore their menu further.
Expats expect happy hour at five and dinner at seven, but Panamanians are very Latin in their meal time. One Panamanian told me he went to happy hour at ten o'clock at night, and I literally laughed out loud. I'm hungry at six and asleep by ten. Needless to say, I was thrilled at the early start time.
I usually prefer wine over Sangria, but wanting to experience everything this country has to offer, I began the night with a glass of red Sangria. It was fruity and refreshing without being too sweet. Next, I tried the white sangria. (Don't worry, they were small!) I didn't like this one as well, as it was a bit sweeter but it was still spritzy and refreshing.
For dinner, I opted for a light appetizer instead of a full meal. I got the berenjena parmesano, also known as eggplant parmesan. The eggplant was sliced very thin and had been grilled rather than fried. It was layered with a light tomato sauce and a small amount of parmesan. It was delicate and flavorful, just as I had hoped it would be.
Two of my table mates got the mushroom risotto, something I had been eyeing on the menu. I didn't know them well enough to ask for a bite, but it looked wonderful. Another table mate got the rib eye steak, and another new friend got the pork tenderloin with chimichurri sauce. Everything looked delicious.
We sat outside, enjoyed the breeze, and listened to a jazz band play American standards music, like Frank Sinatra's Fly Me to the Moon. It was a nice evening, and I'll definitely go back.