• 29Apr

    When walking by, it’s easy to categorize Esencias Panameñas as another restaurant serving some type of Central American cuisine. When driving by, you probably wouldn’t even notice it. However, this small Panamanian restaurant is worth seeking out. Proudly displayed on its windows are awards from various publications, though I had never heard of Esencias Panameñas until I parked in front of it.

    I was welcomed with a warm greeting, upbeat music, and beautiful Panamanian art and décor. A bar and bar tables sit on street level, while the dining is up one level. Having been to Panama, I’m familiar with the cuisine, and was excited to be here.

    I started with a drink. I love both of Panama’s famous spirits—seco, a white spirit distilled from sugarcane, and Ron Abuelo, the well-known rum. They have both here, and I ordered a Chichita Panameña, a cocktail made with various fruit juices and Ron Abuelo. It was delicious, and at only $5 during happy hour, the price is great.

    For food, I ordered carimañolas, patacones con ceviche, and a tamal de hoja. Carimañolas are similar to an empanada, but with a thicker outer layer made from yuca. The ground turkey inside was well-seasoned and paired nicely with the tamarind dipping sauce. Corvina ceviche is somewhat of a national dish in Panama, and I loved it and the crunch provided from the patacones (twice-fried tostones); plus the ceviche had a bit of heat. The tamal de hoja is a bit different from other versions you may be familiar with. Done Panamanian style, it is fresh ground corn stuffed with chicken, olives, capers, peas, and carrots, wrapped in a banana leaf. The tamal was tasty and they did not skimp on the filling. It’s worth noting that this restaurant has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.

    You’ll discover something different by trying Esencias Panameñas and won’t be disappointed.

    -LEM (Lia)

  • 23Aug

    We recently tried out Mezze Box‘s service (after meeting Johnny (the owner) at the August DC Food Blogger Happy Hour at Esencias Panamenas in Petworth). The menu changes weekly and the meals are delivered to your home. This week’s menu included okra, which unfortunately Mezze Box ran out of earlier in the day. We tried the above (pictured) dishes.

    Our favorite dishes were the Grape Leaves, Baba Ganouj, and Chicken & Rice. The Kafta & Vegetables was good as well and I’d like to see the eggplant from that dish again (even on its own).

    The pita was local (Wooden Bakery in Vienna) and was good.

    A Lebanese friend said the lentil dish was just ok (I wasn’t crazy about it but am not a big lentil fan), but she raved about the grape leaves. She liked the chicken and rice dish and said that it usually includes almonds or pine nuts.

    It’s a shame dessert isn’t included.

    I definitely recommend Mezze Box since the food was fresh and tasty, and the menu changes weekly. Plus, the food is delivered to your home.

    -JAY

    Disclosure: From time to time, we are given free items, meals, or entry to events.

    Editor’s Note:

    Below are some highlights from the August DC Food Blogger Happy Hour at Esencias Panamenas:

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