Flavours Of Panama Celebrated At Table Bay Hotel

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Panama has temperate rain forests, great beaches and more birdlife than any other country in Central America. And, the food is quite simply, exotic. Locals can now savour the flavours of Panama at the Table Bay Hotel in November with Chef Mario Castrellón.

From 1 to 2 November, The Table Bay Hotel welcomes Chef Castrellón to the Atlantic Grill.

At age 28, Castrellón had successfully opened two thriving restaurants in Panama and is now the owner of his own restaurant, Maito. Castrellón has reinvented the traditions of the past and has been instrumental in popularising modern Panamanian cuisine.

Castrellón was born and raised in Panama City and discovered his passion for food at a young age. He received a culinary degree from the EHUT of Sant Pol De Mar Institute in Barcelona and went on to open La Posta Restaurant in Panama. After three years at La Posta, Mario was appointed as Executive Chef of Viso 52, where he modernised the menu with innovative dishes such as Ceviche Stuffed Wantons and Black Risotto with Carpaccio Shrimp and Polenta Tamales.

The next logical step was to open his own restaurant and Maito has given Castrellón the freedom to explore, to develop new dishes and to broaden has culinary knowledge. Maito’s menu reflects his passion for food and presentation, and his ability to combine unusual flavours enhanced by spices picked from his garden. He is regarded as a true culinary genius and his signature dishes of Corvina al Mojo, Pulpo Three Ways, and Risotto de Mariscos have earned high praise from diners and critics alike in Panama.

Maito was listed among the top 10 restaurants in Latin America by Rafael Anson, President of the Real Academy of Gastronomy in Spain. He was also invited by SICA to lead the Central American and Caribbean Gastronomy week at the Intercontinental Hotel in London where he did a Maito “mock up” restaurant for a day. The festival took diners on a journey through the culinary history of Central America, demonstrating how the geography inspired a fusion of Creole, Mayan, Garifuna, Afro-Caribbean, Spanish, British, Chinese and North American culinary influences.

Mario will prepare authentic dishes with many of the ingredients from Panama. The first dish is Fish Ceviche done two-ways, carpaccio and fried. This traditional dish lets you get wonderfully lost in mysterious flavours of cilantro, habanero chilli, ginger and garlic. This is followed by Chicken Tamale with sautéed shrimp creole sauce.

The next dish is green Recao Grouper served with fried cashew rice. Recao is wild cilantro and this dish is bathed in garlic, coconut, cashews and cilantro.

Next up is the Piquillos de Ropa. This is a favourite dish in Panama. The beef is braised in a savoury stew of Chevre goat’s cheese, cumin, cream, onions and achiote seeds and is then stuffed into piquillo peppers and served over a sweet potato puree.

The Tres Leches dessert is a light sponge cake liberally soaked in three kinds of milk with Baileys and vanilla beans. Delicioso!

The cost is R240 per person and bookings can be made with Ilse Barnard on 021 406 5988 or ilse.barnard@za.suninernational.com

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