Con tan solo 7 meses de apertura, Íntimo Restaurante ya aparece en una de las páginas del New York Times. El Chef es nada más y nada menos que el Panameño Carlos “Chombolín” Alba, el cual nos ha traído una cocina única y una experiencia de excelente categoría.
No era para menos que hasta el New York Times le pusiera un ojo a éste Chef. Aquí les comparto la Reseña del New York Times de Íntimo Restaurante.
In Panama City, a Restaurant That Lives Up to Its Name
OCT. 13, 2015
Col-canelon, a sort of cabbage cannelloni, which the chef likes to eat at home. Credit Nicholas Gill
Before my meal at Intimo, I found the chef, Carlos Alba, who goes by Chombolin, tooling around in the restaurant’s garden.
“It wasn’t really our intention, when we came here, to farm,” Mr. Alba said. “It just sort of happened.”
Before opening in March, the ranch-style house in Panama City’s San Francisco neighborhood had been vacant for 30 years, and the spacious yard was neck-high with thick vegetation. (Fifty years ago, the entire area was cow pastures.) After everything was cleared (besides a couple of mango trees), things naturally appeared: papaya plants, culantro, chiles. Mr. Alba and his staff have since added various herbs, rows of squash and even a cacao tree. Some items are already on the menu, and Mr. Alba expects that within two or three years the garden will be able to fill most of their produce needs.
Like the neighborhood that replaced those pastures, the interior of the 20-seat restaurant is a mix of styles: worn original gray-and-white checkered floors; a lacquered concrete bar with retrofitted bar stools and light fixtures; cookbooks and cocktail books lining the bar shelves, and just three small tables.
As I sipped a Birds of Paradise Fizz cocktail, their version of a 1940s classic, with house-made grenadine and herbs from the garden, I decided on the tasting menu over the à la carte options. Soon, a series of small plates came out, including shredded duck on a basil leaf paired with spherified passion fruit, and squash purée with con-colon, the crunchy rice from the bottom of the pan.
There are nods to traditional Panamanian products and dishes throughout the 11 courses, though Mr. Alba rearranges them to create flavors that are completely new. Black beans were topped with crumbled queso del país and lacto-fermented watermelon; Azuero Peninsula oysters were served with a coconut water sorbet. With the col-canelon, a sort of cabbage cannelloni that Mr. Alba eats at home, he said he wanted to avoid the heaviness of the soy it usually features, so he created his own umami with smoked pork and honey vinaigrette.
The drink pairings from Mr. Alba’s business partner and bar manager, Robert Martin, bounced around from natural wines to beer to a final digestif served in tea glasses and smoked in a glass box with nance wood, which left a scent that lingered on my fingertips long after I left.
Intimo, Calle 72 Este; 507-388-1365; intimorestaurante.com. An average meal for two, without drinks or tip, is about $80.
A version of this article appears in print on October 18, 2015, on page TR2 of the New York edition with the headline: Rising From the Weeds.