“No, there is no menu here,” Ewan tells me. “This is how we work: you tell me how much time and money you want to spend, and I will pamper you with Thai food.”
I am dumbfounded; I wouldn’t have expected to find this modus operandi in the jungle. I look around and see couples smiling from ear to ear as they wait for their first course to come through.
“All returnees,” Erwan states with satisfaction.
Mantis, as the restaurant is called, overlooks a reefed bay on Bastimentos, an island in front of the Panamanian coast. I’m told sloths live in the nearby trees. The other day I got lost when hiking and stumbled upon a couple of ancient Inca treasures. It appears I have found another gem.
Ewan has been working hard since he opened his restaurant four weeks earlier. His goal has come to fruition: Mantis is #1 on Trip Advisor’s list of regional restaurants. Which is quite an achievement considering its remote location, a fair, ten-minute climb uphill from the Old Bank’s center.
My first dish is a toothsome papaya salad with sesame seeds. As Ewan comes to my table to propose the main course, I ask him what makes his restaurant unique and so attractive.
Ewan continues. “I already explained you our unusual food ordering system. This enables me to concoct a different meal each time for each guest. It also makes me come out of the kitchen and interact with my customers, to discuss the wishes and possibilities of subsequent courses.”
“Now, are you ready for some more? How about a lobster deluxe?”