Capital Bistro Panama or CBP, as it is commonly called, has a privileged location in the Casco Viejo of Panama City. To enter this neighborhood, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you must go up the ramp through the V Centenario Park. Next to the park you will see this restaurant that is the only one on that side of the street, since just after is the Presidency of the Republic of Panama.
Its terrace opens at 1:30 p.m. and its kitchen from 6:00 p.m. inviting you to enjoy the view of the city and a beautiful sunset. Without a doubt, it is one of the best places to see it in the whole city. Tropical music makes you feel that you are on vacation, no matter if you are a tourist or a local. It is the perfect place to have a cold drink before the night starts. The panoramic view of the restaurant includes the skyscrapers of the city and the Pacific Ocean. You can even see the largest flag of Panama waving from Ancon Hill.
In October 2019, Capital Bistro Panama opened its doors again under new owners and a new administration who re-launched the menu with chef Alvaro Perrino. His strategy completely changed the menu by focusing on tapas. The first and last floor terraces are perfect to go with groups of friends for drinks and share dishes.
The chef’s favorite tapas are croquettes. They have to choose between ham and sausage, Manchego cheese or shrimp. From there the menu is divided between hot and cold tapas. Cold traditional options include mixed olives, cheese board or Iberian charcuterie (sausage, sausage and loin). Hot options include all the most iconic Spanish dishes such as ‘patatas bravas’, charcoal octopus or Bilbao shrimp.
The same menu is served on all three floors. If you want to eat a main course you can opt for the typical CBP paella with seafood, chicken and sausage. They also have black rice option with squid ink and octopus. These two options are for sharing just like the Angus T-bone steak. This dish is the favorite of carnivores as it includes a 16-ounce ribeye served on a hot iron casserole with a truffled chimichurri. One of the most popular dishes is the CBP hamburger made in a Spanish style. Ribeye meat is mixed with Manchego cheese, piquillo sauce (roasted paprika) and a Galician ball-shaped bread made exclusively for Capital Bistro Panama.
From Monday to Friday the kitchen opens at 6 p.m. while on Saturdays and Sundays it opens at 1:30 p.m. A special menu is organized for holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year.
Capital Bistro Panama
After its reopening, the restaurant’s motto is creating experiences for all the senses. Many think that it is only a bar because they see the upper terrace, without realizing that there are two floors below. Each of the environments has its own charm.
The second floor is the most elegant. If you look out the window you will feel that you are in a boat watching the waves rising and falling. It is the ideal place for a memorable dinner. The day I went they were setting the table for a customer who had asked for a romantic dinner. You can imagine … candles, roses and champagne. A piano in the corner brings the place to life with a pianist who plays live music on Thursdays and Fridays.
The lower terrace of Capital Bistro Panama is at the beach level. This space is enjoyable, comfortable and spacious. It is the ideal place to have a rum and smoke a cigar after dinner. Both terraces have music that is specially selected to create the desired environment. It is not possible to use the beach as it is guarded by the Presidency of the Republic of Panama.
A place with a lot of history
The Capital Bistro Panama building was the location of the first Fire Department of Panama City. This explains the coincidence of the acronym CBP (Cuerpo de Bomberos de Panama). It was discontinued many years ago and then it was used a place for selling legumes and chickens. It was abandoned again and eight years ago it was restored.
Casco Viejo was the most important area of the city at the beginning of the 20th century. Next to it was the fiscal wharf, which was the most important port in the country. And in front of the Seafood Market was the station to take the buses to go countryside.
The second floor of Capital Bistro Panama shares memories of the country’s history with those who visit. Its decoration shows images and postcards of yesteryear that include themes such as the “Tajada de la Sandía” incident that happened near the restaurant. Then, what is now known as the “Martyrs Day” precursor to the signature of the Torrijos-Carter Treaty. This whole process was part of the struggle of the Panamanian people to regain their sovereignty.
Recovering the Panama Canal was a dream that took decades, until it arrived on December 31, 1999. One of the owners of Capital Bistro Panama tells me that it was like “going to sleep poor and waking up as a billionaire the next day”. The transformation of the city that followed this accomplishment was something impressive. And it happened because we had the assets to be able to borrow.
Accompanying the elegant decoration of the second floor you will find many antiques.
Look to your right as you enter the dining room and you will find a painting made by David Farnum. This Cuban artist spent a few days painting the view from the terrace of Capital Bistro Panama. His style reminds Claude Monet because of the use of pastel colors. The golden frame that frames the painting was from the Presidency of the Republic of Panama. It was discarded, but they managed to recover and renew it.
A visit to the Casco Viejo warrants a stop in Capital Bistro Panama to watch the sunset or have a drink and have some tapas by the Pacific Ocean.