Candela's Grill and Restaurant

QUOTE:  “There is no sauce in the world like hunger.”  --Miguel Cervantes (Don Quixote)There’s a new “kid on the block,” Candela Grill, located approximately 6 km from The Rey in Coronado heading towards the city, directly across from Banco National in Chame.  Candela is the creation of Owner Diomedes (who prefers to be called “Junior”), and is assisted by his wife, Ana, and brother-in-law, Juan.  Candela has replaced the former Rincon Cubano Restaurant.My spouse and I were invited to a tasting dinner shortly after the restaurant had been open three weeks.  It was very special, since we were given small tastes of many dishes; therefore, we were able to sample and discuss them.  We started with clams in garlic sauce.  My husband claims to be an expert on clams and gave this succulent dish his blessing.  The clams came out steamy hot and sweet in a luscious sauce of celery, garlic, peppers, parsley, carrot, butter, and I suspect, white wine.  Definitely a go for $6.95, and the hot, crispy garlic bread ($2.50) was the perfect accompaniment.

Next came a trio of ceviches:  corvina, pulpo, and shrimp ($3.95-$4.95).  We both concurred that they are the best we have had in Panama.  The ceviches awoke our taste buds with crunchy veggies, a tangy sauce, and well-marinated fish.  They are made fresh daily, and Junior uses fresh lime and a little bit of vinegar.  I am not a fan of pulpo, but would eat this ceviche in a heartbeat.

Our sampling of entrees included small and jumbo shrimp in garlic sauce, fried white sea bass, grilled sea bass fillet, seafood stew, and roast young pork.  Sometimes the delicate flavor of shrimp becomes unpalatable when overcooked or rendered tasteless when masked with floury sauces, certainly not a mistake at Candela.  These tomato-based sauces are unbelievably good with an infinite variety of textures, flavors, and colors, and compliment the shrimp and seafood.  We loved the fried corvina, which was crispy, flakey and tender—just the way you want it.  While all of the dishes were delicious, it was unanimous!  We favored the fried corvina and the seafood stew.  Entrees range from $8.95 - $12.50, which is quite a bargain.  Candela offers a surf and turf for ($39.95), and the Candela seafood mix ($42.95), both to be shared.  Included on the menu are three chicken dishes ($7.95), punto de palomilla, similar to a New York steak ($9.95), and churrasco, a Panamanian beef ($8.95).  Complimentary side dish choices are French fries, yucca, congri rice (a Columbian recipe with black beans, garlic, onion, pork and culantro), or green salad.  The restaurant serves sodas, juices, and tea ($1.50-$2.50), national beer ($2), imported beer ($2.50), cocktails, liquors, Sangria, and Frontera wine.

Junior is no stranger to the restaurant business, having an existing restaurant in Panama City for 10 years.  He is animated, colorful, and full of life.  He believes in his concept and speaks from the heart.  The name “Candela” was suggested to him by his friends, when several years ago, he had the dream to open a restaurant.  He would cook rabbits, pork, or chicken for his friends in a very hot box fired by charcoal, called the “Candela.”  The restaurant has four wide screen televisions, pleasant music, and sufficient tables for a large crowd.

Junior says, “I serve the food that I like and want to see you smile when you eat it.”

At the present time, Candela’s Grill is open 7 days a week from 12 Noon – 10 p.m.  Jubilado discount is happily given, and you are welcome to bring your own wine.  Telephone:  6781-3580,

TIP:  If you’re in a pinch for a sauce, invent your own butter-based sauces by combining anything that has a strong hearty flavor with room temperature butter.  The combinations are endless:  herbs, nuts, chives, capers, horseradish, anchovies, mustard, garlic, or shallots.  When your fish, chicken, pork, or beef is hot off the grill or out of the frying pan, put a dollop or two of seasoned butter and serve immediately.