It may be located in the heart of Smith Street, but a few floors up, The Panama Dining Room has an atmosphere all its own.
It’s a great date place. It’s also an excellent venue for a business lunch, a dinner with mates and loads of other occasions. The reason? The menu is diverse and creative, and the ambience has just the right ratio of classy-to-casual.
You get to the restaurant by walking up a few nondescript flights of stairs. Get to the top, head towards the warm glow coming through the doorway and you’ll start to hear the murmur of diners’ voices.
You’ll notice the floor-to-ceiling arched windows with views of Melbourne City as soon as you walk in. That coupled with high ceilings and exposed brickwork gives this place a New York warehouse vibe.
There’s a decent wine and cocktail list, which reflects the venue’s ability to be just as good as a place for a few quiet drinks as it is for a meal.
The varied food menu includes some creative dishes incorporating unique ingredients. For example, the starter of prawns with whipped cod roe, fennel, pollen and avocado is covered in a blanket of potato crisps – the prawns are succulent, the avocado medley is creamy and the potato crisps are crunchy.
For main course, the beef with sea urchin and wasabi butter, parsnip, ponzu and shiitake mushrooms comes highly recommended. The sauce is flavour packed and perfect for mopping up with slices of tender beef.
Rather than being an afterthought, the sides are well-thought-out mini dishes in their own right. To add some greenery to your meal, go for the peas with ricotta, torn mint, lemon and radish. Or for a more indulgent twist, get the dutch cream potatoes with cabbage and bacon gratin.
And when it’s time for dessert, you can’t go wrong with a good crème brûlée. Although the soft chocolate with prunes and salted butter caramel ice cream is pretty awesome, too. Enjoy your dessert alongside one of the moreish dessert wines or fortified wines for the full experience. There’s a Hemera Estate “White Knight” fortified Semillon, or go all out with a Vasse Felix cane cut Semillon.
The Panama Dining Room
t: (03) 9417 7663
a: Level 3/231 Smith Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065