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Tucked away in Paitilla, creative food, modern upscale ambiance.
Viso 52 Entrance

Viso Fifty Two Restaurant: It wasn´t by chance that I am writing this review tonight, several readers have requested it. I enjoy Viso Fifty Two, having eaten there a number of times already. It opened in Panama City late January this year and the food is truly creative, none of the menu items are ho-hum, they are all interesting and new. Well prepared in the spotless show kitchen by highly trained chefs. Not only that, it is in my neighborhood. I can enjoy a nice glass of wine and walk home!

Tucked away in a corner of Punta Paitilla, Panama City, Viso Fifty Two is conveniently located to downtown areas, only a few minutes by cab to major hotels. Unless of course it is rush hour when Ave. Balboa is jammed, but they are not open until 7 pm when the traffic is settling down.

Panamanian Chef Mario Castrellon is no stranger to great food. He studied near Barcelona, in Sant Pol de Mar for 4 years, then did a stint in the Canary Islands before returning home. He was the opening chef at La Posta restaurant where he worked for two years before opening his own catering company Mas Catering.

He changes the menu on a regular basis, every couple of months and offers specials on the weekends. In fact they have just changed and expanded the dessert menu. No diet food on that menu, sorry. Chef Mario calls his food Creative Comfort Food which is a little Fusion and a lot of Comfort he says. He focuses on fresh Panamanian ingredients and favorites when creating his signature dishes.

Chef Mario Recommends: Starter: Polenta Tamale with Ossobuco and Spicy Shrimp $6. Main: Grilled Octopus with Hearts of Palm $12.50. Green Mango and Avocado Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette $6.50. Dessert for the sweet tooth: Apple Crisp with Almond Topping $6 or Flourless Chocolate Cake $6 (a chocoholic´s dream).

Just as I was talking to Chef Mario friends walked in. They were just starting their meal when I finished my meeting with the Chef and were enjoying the green mango salad, the bread basket which has an assortment of unique breads and crackers, and a full bodied 2003 Rioja. They described their salad as delightful and felt that the wine was very good value. Later I will report on how they felt their meal was, I didn´t want to intrude any longer.

Other recommendations from friends who frequent Viso 52: Zucchini Wraps with Ricotta Cheese, Lemongrass and Pepper $7.50. Ravioli with Portobello Mushrooms in Crimini Sauce $13. Grilled Lamb with Pistachio and Mint $21.50. Angus Filet with Mushroom Risotto and Asparagus $14.50. Tuna in Miso Glaze with Green Beans, Crimini and Sprouts $14.50.

From personal experience when I ate there I found the zucchini wraps to be a tasty surprise; a ricotta cheese filling rolled in a paper thin strip of zucchini with punch of spicy pepper. The ravioli rich and elegant, melting in your mouth. The tuna was one of the best prepared steaks I have ever eaten, not at all fishy like tuna can be and with the delicate, salty flavor of miso to balance the bold flavor of the tuna; I ordered it rare, to medium rare. My friend had the medium but it was not the same texture. If you like raw fish, I recommend it on the rare side.

Ambiance and decor are elegant, service excellent. Prices on the upper end but not unexpected or out-of-range for this type of dining experience. Bathrooms are clean with ultra modern decor (Strangely enough, I always check the bathrooms, if restaurateurs put money and/or creativity into bathroom detail as well as the front, I can see they have an eye for detail and understand the total experience of their diners-everyone has to use it!).

Balboa Ave Sign

Wine: They have a well rounded wine list starting at $19 for white and $25 for red up to $190 for Dom Perignon. Over 70 varieties to choose from plus a wide assortment of other alcoholic beverages. Lemonade is tasty too!

Interior Viso 52

Bar: Swig by Viso Fifty Two will open in about 2 weeks and was described to me as an Ultra Lounge. They told me that it will be a modern upscale lounge with dancing. Opening soon, 5 pm till closing.

Viso Fifty Two Restaurant: Galerias Punta Paitilla, Locales 5&6, on the corner of Ave. Balboa (Popeyes corner, near Arrocha) and Via Italia. Open 12 noon – 2:30 pm and 7 pm – 10:30 pm. Reservations are recommended, especially for dinner. Tel: 215-0349, 215-2072 Email: visofiftytwo@yahoo.com Both Chef Mario and the manager spoke English. Valet parking is offered.

Mas Catering: Tel: 6674-2884, catering@mariocastrellon.com

Cheers!

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