The Casco Friends chat is my official source of information on what is going on in the neighborhood since I no longer live in Casco Viejo (stay in my farm in Pedasi). I kept seeing messages from residents raving about the new restaurant in Casco Viejo called Lamro Restaurant which serves food from Georgia. So of course I had to try it on my next visit to Panama City!
First of all, it is important to clarify that this restaurant serves food from the country of Georgia, not the state in the United States. I had tried some Georgian restaurants in Eastern Europe in countries like Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, so I was somewhat familiar with their cuisine.
I contacted Lamro Restaurant through Instagram to coordinate a visit. The owner, Elene, welcomed me and offered me some tasting dishes as I asked her some questions. She and her husband Guga are originally from Tbilisi and they moved to Panama less than a year ago.
Lamro Restaurant opened on the 27th of December 2023 for their soft opening and the formal date of operation was February 1, the day I visited. Opening hours are from noon to 10 p.m. daily. There is street parking available and there is an agreement for reserved spots in front of the venue.
Lamro is Elene’s Grandmother
Elene grew up spending time with her grandmother who was a great chef. Her name was Lamro and the restaurant was done as a tribute to her since they are using her recipes. Georgia values its cuisine a lot which brings the family together for celebrations like Easter, New Years, and Christmas. Every Sunday they would go to Lamar’s house and have a big family dinner.
This cuisine is not common in America. Elene tells me that Lamro Restaurant is the first Georgian restaurant in Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. In South America there is a Georgian restaurant in Colombia and there are a few in the United States and Canada. Their first clients were Eastern Europeans who lived in Panama or were traveling. But this soon changed as the word of mouth got out and the locals started to come to Lamro Restaurant.
The couple managed to find a Georgian chef in Panama! Davit Pogromski was born in Georgia and he moved to Panama in 2001 when he was 22 years old. His sister was already living in Panama. He is actually a telecommunications engineer, but he always dreamed of being a chef so he studied culinary arts in Panama.
Lamro Restaurant’s locale is quite small so it only has a capacity for 30 diners. It is decorated with traditional Georgian art which has influences from Persia, Byzantine and Ottoman Empire. They have rugs in the ceiling, which is used in Georgia to keep the house warm (which is obviously not necessary in Panama!). Ceramic is also used to decorate the restaurant space and some flowers and pomegranate. Table mantels have traditional Georgian patterns and colors.
Fresh Ingredients in the Menu
The menu of Lamro Restaurant is quite small compared to all the dishes that can be found in other Georgian restaurants. This is because they couldn’t find some of the ingredients they needed. They went to the Indian, Arabic and specialty food stores in Panama City to find some ingredients. Other things they have had to order from the United States.
Ingredients in Lamro Restaurant are fresh, for example they receive meat daily from the Argentinian butcher. Food is made in house, including the bread which is delicious! They also marinate pickles and other vegetables, and make the strawberry jam for ice cream.
For the cheese they are using local and imported Italian cheese for now. But they do plan to teach local farmers to produce cheese for Lamro Restaurant since Georgian cheese is quite different. Georgia has over 300 types of cheese, so getting locally at least three or four types would allow them to be more confident in elaborating more dishes.
Lamro Restaurant plans on keeping the original menu, but they will have special dishes available as well. The idea is to offer seasonal dishes like chakapuli which is made with tarragon spice and lamb. If clients like these dishes and the logistics of finding the ingredients is sustainable they will be kept on the menu.
What to order in Lamro Restaurant?
Looking at the menu in Lamro Restaurant you would think some dishes are Greek. When I asked Elene she said a lot of dishes are regional and some may say they are Turkish, Azerbaijani, Armenian, etc. Food is shared between Eastern Europe and the Caucasus countries.
Every country has its own version of dumplings or empanadas. The Georgian version is called Khinkali which is offered with meat or mushroom and cream. Elene says Georgians can tell if somebody knows their food by the way they eat the khinkali which should have the juice sucked out on the first bite. They are supposed to be eaten with your hands.
We also tried the Georgian salad with nuts, cucumber and tomatoes which was eaten by my four year old nephew. Our final dish was the Imeruli Khachapuri which is like a crust pie with cheese. It would have been better paired with one of their sauce options, since it was a bit plain alone.
Cheese boat or Adjaruli Khachapuri is Elene’s favorite dish which I had tried before in my travels. She also loves the starters because she likes nuts and half of them have nuts. The menu also has some grill meat options including ground meat kebab, pork or veal skewers
The menu at Lamro Restaurant is great for vegetarians and vegans. Both categories are marked on its menu, as well as the gluten free options. Try the tasting menus which are suitable for two to four people. They have three options: meat, vegetarian and vegan.
Wine Originated in Georgia
Right before the pandemic I visited Berlin to go to the ITB tourism fair. The fair was cancelled a few days prior, but I still went considering I had purchased my plane ticket and paid for my Airbnb. There were a lot of people like me, so I catched up with an old blogger friend who invited me to a Georgian wine tasting event. The lady did a tasting for industry people because it was cheaper to use the wines than to pay the cost of shipping them back! As she gave us samples, she explained that wine originated in Georgia. This fact was new to me.
I asked Elene about Georgian wines, since her menu had wines from Argentina and Chile. She told me that Georgia has been producing wine for more than 8,000 years. But they make wine differently than in other countries because they use clay pots, which are bigger than the ones you see in the restaurant. These clay pots are buried underground to preserve the natural temperature during the fermentation.
They are working now to import wine from Georgia to offer in the restaurant and in shops as well.