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Donde José

Panama City, Panama

Young chef pushes boundaries of Panamanian cuisine

In a nutshell: Patriotic chef José Carles tells the story of Panamanian food at his tiny 16-seater restaurant, showcasing the country's little known native ingredients in a tasting menu full of twists and technical flourishes.

What's on the menu? It changes every few months with a completely new theme, but expect contemporary and creative food with an emphasis on smoky, acidic and spicy flavours. A crispy taco of dehydrated milk from the chef's cousin's farm is lined with garlic and milk purée and filled with beef tartare, while Panama's Chinese community is celebrated in a steamed bun stuffed with corn tamale, plus a caramelised onion crust and crispy plantains.

About the chef: A Cordon Bleu-trained cook, Carles cut his teeth in Australia working in restaurants including Icebergs and Attica.

What else? The chef is about to open a food lab called Artesano to further push the boundaries of Panamanian cuisine.

Top tip: Arrive on time – there are two sittings each night at 6pm and 8.30pm – and they don't wait for latecomers. If you can, grab a seat at the chef's table, where Carles will talk you through each dish in great detail.

Images: Sarah Tyler

On the pass

  • José Carles

Style of food

  • Modern Panamanian

Standout dish

  • Where is the Milk? – a crispy taco made from dehydrated milk lined with garlic and milk purée and beef tartare