What’s the story? Chef Mario Castrellón was among the first to introduce the vision of a new Panamanian contemporary cuisine. The first restaurant from Central America to appear in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2016, Maito is a meeting point for the diversity of cultures, flavours and ingredients of Panama. Its influence in the region is growing so fast that in 2022 it won the Highest Climber Award and this year it maintains its title of The Best Restaurant in Panama.
Food influences: At Maito, diners can enjoy the contrasts of Panamanian cuisine, taking a whirlwind tour through the Caribbean, indigenous, Asian, Creole, Afro-Antillean and American influences present in Panama's multicultural culinary identity like nowhere else.
And the vibe? Located at the heart of Coco del Mar, the restaurant feels warm and inviting with a Caribbean flow – its design was inspired by the architecture of the Panama Canal. There’s a lot of creative energy coming out of Maito, which gives it a dynamic and avant-garde atmosphere.
About the menu: Maito offers a tasting menu that can range from nine to 11 courses, alongside an à la carte featuring ingredients rarely used anywhere else in the city. This is thanks to the relationships Castrellón has built with local producers, whom he showcases at the restaurant. His love of the sea and tropical products, justified by Panama’s double coastline, shines in all the dishes.
More on the chef: Castrellón’s background is in European cuisine, but – intuitively and without a road map – he invented his own culinary identity through interactions with producers and a love of Panamanian specialty coffee (he is a founder of coffee roaster Café Unido). He is also known for empowering young chefs and gastronomic talents across his kitchens – all these feats have led his peers to vote for him as the winner of the Estrella Damm Chefs’ Choice Award 2023.