Signature fusion fine dining
An upscale Venezuelan restaurant chain, Azahar, has recently opened in El Cangrejo, offering a fresh take on fusion cuisine, borrowing from a global compendium of food, including sushi.
Azahar is spearheaded by two engineers-turned-gourmets, Hernan Cardozo and Miguel Merckz. Cardozo cites world-class establishments such as New York’s “Per Sé” and “Nobu” as inspiration. Like New York, Panama is a town with an abundant culinary offer. Cardozo is banking that Azahar’s unique menu, attentive service and luxe décor will offer a full dining experience that sets it apart.
A good way to explore the menu is through the creations of sushi chef, Rubén González. Try the “Azahar roll,” a lobster tempura sushi roll topped with shrimp gratin, thinly sliced avocado and balsamic reduction. There are many other artful and tasty options to choose from.
One of the most ordered items from executive chef, Adwin Arias’, menu is the “tuna pizza” appetizer, which is not to be missed. A light, crunchy toast base is dressed with goat cheese then layered with fine slices of AAA-grade raw tuna, micro-basil and a touch of truffle oil. They arrive two to an order.
Cardozo is particularly proud of the “Mousse de plátanos,” a polenta-like patty covered in fontina cheese fondue that he describes as a South American comfort food. It is light in texture and offers playful interplay of earthy plantain flavor with the tang of the sauce.
The “Langostinos Azahar” is another signature dish that presents three shredded-phyllo-encrusted langoustines that are perfectly cooked, sculpturally presented and accentuated by a Thai dipping sauce. This is tempura taken to another level.
There is an array of risottos to choose from. The “Risotto queso cabra y tomates secos” (Goat cheese risotto with sun dried tomatoes) is a popular option, served with artichoke hearts and presented with raw tomatoes to give an acid counterbalance to the rich, creamy sauce.
Calle José Isaac Fábregas, Local 2, El Cangrejo
Mon – Sat 12 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Sun 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
The “Gnochi de plátano” is one of the many unique recipes on offer. Best enjoyed hot, the plantain dumplings are pan-caramelized before combining with a portobello and porcini mushroom sauce and shredded Grana Padano.
The “Lomito Ithaca” is a center-cut steak stuffed with goat cheese, caramelized nuts and leeks, served with mushroom and spinach sauce. The delicate meat is accented by the bold flavor elements of the dish.
For dessert, try the “Marquesa de banano,” a cookie-based Venezuelan sweet that is served frozen and only gets better as the ice-cream that tops it slowly melts.
The elegant yet whimsical décor represents the collaborative efforts of Fadlabs and AAB Designs to provide a lush, modern and comfortable space. The open kitchen provides theater and reflects Azahar’s “nothing to hide” attitude.
Cardozo explains: “Our food is honest, comprising high-quality, noble ingredients. We set ourselves apart by providing an immersive dining experience with great service and ambience.”
A private VIP lounge is available for parties of eight to 30. The larger “Salón Rojo” can seat parties of 50. The open, bar area is set-up for enjoying cocktails and casual dining.
The knowledgeable staff can suggest wine pairings and are happy to share their recommendations. Valet parking is available.