DONDE JOSE IS CURRENTLY CLOSED. THEY ONLY HAVE FONDA LO QUE HAY AT THE MOMENT.
Donde Jose moved within Casco Viejo at the beginning of 2020. It used to be located in a yellow building, with no sign, diagonal to the American Trade Hotel and La Concordia Boutique Hotel. Their new space is where the Ocho y Medio Restaurant used to be on Calle Jose de Obaldia between Calle 8 and 9.
This place on the ground floor of a building, which used to be a Catholic school, is a lot bigger than their old location. It has a lovely internal courtyard with a huge tree and a bar. Previously they could only sit 14 people at once, so they had to have two dining schedules at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Now they can sit 40 diners comfortably at Donde Jose Restaurant. Since this new location can fit more people, dinning prices are lower. Menu changes periodically, they don’t have a fixed date, so it is always good to return to get a new experience.
Donde Jose has a tasting menu
Diners receive what looks like an old school book which is actually the cocktail and drink menu. The food menu is placed on the table hidden on the napkin. Bites are the starter dishes, followed by the main dishes and the desserts. Servers bring palate cleansers periodically when flavors change drastically.
Each dish has a story which will be narrated by the server. For example, a dish called “Carnival in Penonome 1986” refers to the year and place where the chef, Jose Olmedo Carles, was born. This town is popular for its carnival celebration. They are all related to Panamanian culture and flavors. Many bring back memories of the old days or country traditions. Native ingredients were being lost before restaurants like this one made an effort to rescue them.
Jose liked to cook since he was a boy, however, he did not imagine it would be come his career. He decided to study culinary arts at the Cordon Blue in Sydney, Australia. After, he worked at top restaurants around the world. But he was passionate about Panamanian gastronomy, so he decided to come back to Panama.
He started doing paid dinners in his house to practice until he was able to open his own place. The place was never named and people simply said they were going to “eat at Jose’s” so the name stuck. The group that owns this restaurant, also has Fonda Lo Que Hay, which was named in the same way, whatever there was to eat that day.